By Rhys Tarling
On the last Saturday of every month, at least until August, the Rosemount will host a two hour poetry slam.
For anyone not in the know, poetry slams are competitions where poets read from or recite their work, and they’re judged on a scale of 1 – 10 by 5 randomly selected members of the audience.
The winner receives a prize of 200 bucks. Second and third place, well…they get to be second and third.
I attended the first poetry slam on Saturday March 26. Coincidentally, it was also the first poetry slam I attended. I didn’t know what to expect other than homemade poetry to erupt – often and with fervency – from the sort of people you usually see on the bus.
What I saw was so much more than that; it was a mosaic of differing styles, beliefs, and values. It wasn’t just the poems themselves that were unique, but the attitude in the delivery.
One contestant, Melissa, shyly delivered a poem about the fragility of existence and the mercurial nature of identity and memory. She lost her train of thought halfway through the poem and had to consult her notes, but luckily enough, that was beautifully in sync with the theme of her piece.
She slinked off stage quietly and without fuss to rapturous applause.
And then there was Alice.
Alice strolled towards stage without a hint of nervousness. Not that she seemed to be a seasoned pro – she just needed to get on that stage, and vent something fierce. Although she wasn’t the winner, she was my favourite of the 11 poets.
Alice began her piece by cleanly setting the stage – she’s a waitress at the Hog’s Breath and for the millionth time the guy has requested, in deadly earnestness, that he have the “Man Salad.”
What followed was an epic verbal evisceration on the kind of toxic masculinity that renders men hopelessly insecure and sexist. She delivered her piece with passion and it flowed effortlessly.
Damn, it was good to witness that.
“Horses!” Yelled Ray as he made his way to the stage. Of all the poets, this guy had the most showmanship; why, he couldn’t even wait to get on stage to speak his piece. And he was clad entirely in black, like someone’s idea of a ‘true’ poet.
His poem was the most abstract of all of them, which is a less plain way of saying that it went way the hell over my head. I suspect the point wasn’t to express something concrete but to impart a vague feeling of unease – consider constant refrains of “horses are drowning” and “the songs are breaking,” delivered with a look of disappointment and severity.
The winner was Scott-Patrick Mitchell, who delivered a crowd-pleasing piece on the comical frustration of trying to compose a poem. Ray was second. Alex, with her rousing on poem on our “bodies being a jungle” came in at third.
All 11 pieces were original and inspired in their own ways. If one poet wasn’t to your liking or incomprehensible, the next person would likely speak to your sensibilities.
The atmosphere was inviting and warm, every member of the crowd being acutely aware of the inherent courage it takes to go on a stage, poetically express yourself, and then be judged for it.
This is a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and well worth the 10 dollar entry fee.