My friend Louisa McCune introduced me to the talented literary editor, Jim Fitzgerald who was working at St. Martin’s Press when I was making SlamNation. In the movie, he gets into an interesting debate with poet Jessica Care Moore about the state of publishing and the literary merits of slam poetry. During the full interview, Jim had many great tales didn’t work in the final movie.
In this outtake, Jim tells the story of how he coined the phrase “Generation X.”
At national slam poetry events, individual poets who are unaffiliated with a team are referred to as “storm poets.” Poet Danny Solis created this name as a memorial to his friend Pat Storm, who died in 2000.
Pat was a member of several slam teams from the south competing at the national level and was very successful. You can see why in this piece.
Pat grew up in New York City and he returned there, amidst some controversy. He would hang out in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village near where I live. I would visit him there sometimes.
But Pat was struggling with substance abuse. One time when I saw him in the park, he was unconscious on a bench, surrounded by paramedics and police. When they roused him, he burst into fire and it took several men to restrain him. Pat was a powerful force.
In 2000, I invited Pat to come see the SlamAmerica Bus tour’s NYC performance at a club on 14th Street. I think that was the last time many of his slam poet friends saw him. He died soon after.
Pat was well-loved by the slam community and we miss him. For all you proud storm poets, here is your namesake...
A short note from Dan Ferri about the piece.... "The funny thing about this piece is that people think it's funny, which tells something about both rhetoric and street fights. In both cases you want 'em to smile first."
So much power in words and performance. Feel the intense focus of the audience in the pauses, even when you can’t see them. Sara Holbrook demonstrates how compelling slam poetry can be when delivered by a master in this 2nd person indictment of prostitution, excerpted in SlamNation and now shown here in its entirety.
Beau Sia’s poem “Money” is now a cultural snapshot from its time of the mid-to-late ‘90s. Beau Sia was a 19-year old wunderkind when he took the stage of the Portland National Poetry Slam Finals, and became an instant star.
This poem gets SlamNation off to a roaring start. In early cuts of the movie, this was not the case. At the time, Marc Smith - “Father of the Slam” - took a look at rough cut and gave me this advice: “You have to start with the end. People need to know where they’re going, that there will be big crowds and high stakes. They need to know that this is not just about your typical boring poetry reading.” Very insightful! So that’s exactly what I did – and Beau’s high energy made him the natural choice to kick things off.
The Providence Team at the Portland National Poetry Slam were masters of the “Group Piece” poems. This duet by Bill MacMillan and Corey Cokes, excerpted in SlamNation but complete here, is just one example of their talent.
This poem was originally called Two Fathers but everyone called it "that Mandela poem”, so now I call it Mandela. It was a useful slam poem, perfectly pitched to disarm black judges. One of my best moments in slam poetry was when I performed it for an audience of over a thousand slam poetry enthusiasts at the Ann Arbor Nationals in 1995, where Deb and Steve Marsh let me read it the evening of the finals, as part of a few pre-show readings.
This was barely a year after Mandela was elected president of South Africa. I remember doing a very relaxed reading, like gentle story telling, as if I were some raconteur, and saving the emotional fireworks for the very end. Well, the crowd went wild, what with Mandela's ascendance to the presidency very fresh in people's minds. Besides, your bourgeois armchair revolutionaries really love to be milked by social justice rhetoric, whether they come from limousine liberal America, Africa or elsewhere. I should know; I'm one of them.
When I walked back to my seat, I saw people in the audience with tears in their eyes, including some cynical, hard-bitten buddies of mine who normally needed a poke in the gonads with a sharp stick to activate their tear ducts.
Another time I read it in Winston-Salem, where a black friend of mine from New York listened and then fled the venue into the night, because it reminded him too much of his own father problems. We remain good friends to this very day, even though we've never shared any confidences about our fathers beyond this poem that apparently stabbed him in the heart as fiercely as it had stabbed me. Sometimes you only find out how powerful your subterranean emotions are by writing them down.
OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.
These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here,where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.
This piece is from one of the daytime showcase events at the Portland National Poetry Slam. It’s a exuberant, fanciful rumination on nuclear destruction from the man who got it all started – Marc Smith, Father of the Slam.
Great example of an identity poem from Andrea Thompson. This one was an extra, but another, “After Kissing,” made it into SlamNation to show how hot the rookie Vancouver team was, almost beating Taylor Mali.
I was able to catch up with Andrea a few years ago in Toronto when I was shooting parts of BLAST! there. You can catch up with her too, in this interview.