Hello, poetry lovers! My name is Shappy Seasholtz and this here is a video of me performing my poem "Butterfly". At this point in my illustrious "spoken-word career", "Butterfly" was considered my "signature poem" meaning I performed this ridiculous piece hundreds of times. To me, it was the "Satisfaction" of my poetic repertoire, like when you go to a Rolling Stones concert you expect them to play "Satisfaction". Sometimes I don't even understand that metaphor since I'm really more of a Kinks fan.
I wrote "Butterfly" for a Rod McKuen tribute show that famous rock poet Thax Douglas put together at the Lounge Ax in Chicago sometime in the late 90's. Rod McKuen was probably the last poet to show up on prime-time network television. He was a huge phenomenon in the late 60's and early 70's reading sappy love poems behind canned music. My mom had his books and an 8-track called "Listen To The Warm." I figured what could be a more groovy topic for a poem than a butterfly? Especially one with a drinking problem? I have since performed it with jazz combos, punk bands, at comedy clubs and, of course, poetry slams.
When this video was shot we were in the last miles of Gary Glazner's SlamAmerica 2000 bus tour. A crazy poetry experiment in which a rickety tour bus drove various slam poets across the country to perform a slam poetry revue in support of Gary's Slam anthology that had just come out from Manic D Press. Somehow it had Grand Marnier as a sponsor which meant us broke poets could drink as much of the syrupy orange liqueur we wanted. I haven't touched the stuff since.
We were all psyched to be performing at a NYC venue. Everybody turned it up to 11 that night. In 2000, I was on my first ever slam team (despite having been around the slam scene since 1991) representing the Mental Graffiti team out of Chicago so I had a huge chip on my shoulder and was ready to kick ass at Nationals which were in Providence, RI that year. I ended up in a 3-way tie for 11th place in Individual Finals tying a former National Champion and a NPR radio host which was impressive but kept me from the Finals stage. Our team got to semi-finals hosted by New York City poet Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. She thought I was an asshole because I refused to shake her hand as I walked on stage. Needless to say, I feel heads over heels in love with her, and later moved to New York City to be with her. We've been together for 11 years.
But back to this vid: I think Paul caught me at great point in my poetic path. This was my New York coming out party. I'm cock-sure, a little buzzed and fucking with the slammers heads in this video. Who knew that a year later, I'd be moving to Gotham to help Bob Holman open the Bowery Poetry Club or that two years later I'd be on the first team fielded from the BPC, and that we'd win the 2002 National Poetry Slam with the Urbana Slam team?
So I guess you could say this performance really helped me earn my wings! Get it? Wings?
This was a project I edited during the summer before my senior year of film school, and I really had a blast doing it! No pun intended! :)
Syncing up visuals to music is just, well, awesome. Despite the long and sometimes painstaking process, there's not many other words for it... and the result is so satisfying. You won't find yourself watching that 20 minute medical corporate video you just finished editing together on loop for a day and a half for fun, but a music video is a whole other story! So I hope you enjoy this one!
The classic debate – what is Freestyling? No better demonstration than P.E.A.C.E.’s performance in this excerpt.
The Making of Freestyle (continued)
After being inspired by Sage Francis, I decided my next movie would be about freestyle hip hop. I got started by shoot performances and interviews with talented Freestylers, including Sage in Brooklyn, Juice in Chicago and Jerry Quickley in Los Angeles.
One year ago Claire Missanelli died after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was my friend and producing partner. We were in touch with each other almost every day for 10 years, while we worked together on our movies.
It has been difficult to adjust to her absence, both professionally and personally. Making independent films has never been easy, but it has been so much harder without her.
Claire left a magnificent legacy – her work continues to entertain and to educate audiences, and our next film will carry her name as well. I know she would love it, and be delighted that it is finally nearing completion.
I miss you, Claire. Next week, I’ll meet with some of our friends near your home to celebrate your life. Your spirit and wisdom will inspire us as we continue to create.
In this early sequence we see how freestyling traces its origins to spirituality, a theme which runs throughout the rest of the movie.
The Making of Freestyle
I was first introduced to Freestyling at a National Poetry Slam event where I was promoting my movie SlamNation. The accomplished hip hop artist, Sage Francis, who was also a slam poet at the time, busted into a rap at a daytime showcase. He was so polished and seamless that he was half way into his performance before I realized that it was completely improvisational, interacting with the environment and the people in the audience. I was blown away!
When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that the rejection letter I received from Harvard had a grammatical error. So, I wrote a letter back, rejecting their rejection letter. Then I sent a version to all the colleges that had rejected me.
My mother, Nancy Devlin, sent a copy of this letter to the New York Times and it was published in the New Jersey section in 1981. Then in the mid-’90s or so, there was a cover story in the New York Times Magazine about the trauma students were experiencing getting rejected from colleges. As an education writer, my mom knows all too well that educational issues are cyclical. So she re-submitted the letter.
This time it was published in the Op-Ed section of the Sunday New York Times, a very prestigious, high-profile space. It turns out the letter had already become popular and was reprinted in newspapers, books etc. (without my knowledge, pre-internet). The NewYork Times accused me of plagiarism. When they discovered that I was the original author and they had unwittingly re-printed themselves, they were none too happy. But my mom insists that it was important to reprint the article because the issue was clearly still relevant. The letter remains popular on the internet even today.
Anyway, here it is:
Office of Admissions Any College Wherever U.S.A Dear Any College:
Having reviewed the many rejection letters I have received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
This year, after applying to a great many colleges and universities, I received an especially fine crop of rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is limited.
Each of my rejections was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account – the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, costs and social atmosphere.
I am certain that most colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made in turning away some of these rejections. I can only hope they were few in number.
I am aware of the keen disappointment my decision may bring. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the time and effort it may have taken for you to reach your decision to reject me.
Keep in mind that at times it was necessary for me to reject even those letters of rejection that would normally have met my traditionally high standards.
I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject my application. Let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a successful academic year.
A truly touching piece from my friend Cass King, performed on the New York City stop of Gary Glazner’s Slam America Bus Tour. Cass’s main gig is The Wet Spot and her production of SHINE: A Burlesque Musical has enjoyed great success.
Part of a larger project on the subject of health literacy, this little video was shot back in the summer of 2008 when I was just learning how to use that huge and heavy professional camera! We spent a hot summer's day walking around Times Square to see just how people felt about their doctors, their relationship with their doctors, and what they knew about health care in general. The result is this fairly amusing and somewhat enlightening clip!