SlamNation

SLAMNATION MINI DOC

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
This outtake from SlamNation takes place at the Slammaster’s meeting at the Portland National Poetry Slam in 1996. These used to be completely democratic meetings, that anyone competing in the National Poetry Slam could participate and vote in.

The quality is rough and the original is lost, but this mini-doc captures a turning point in the poetry slam movement: the birth of the non-profit organization Poetry Slam Inc (PSi). The piece shows that the organization was born out of the fear that some big corporation would trademark the phrase “Poetry Slam” and block the poets from using it for their events. (The reality of copyright law is that “Poetry Slam” had already become part of the common language and could no longer be trademarked for performance poetry events. So the fear was unfounded, and no one, not even PSi, owns the phrase “Poetry Slam.”
)
 


For those who have the context and know the players, this is a study of subtle power plays. Participating in the early slam poetry movement was a profound, close-up lesson in politics. The stakes may be lower, but I’m convinced the dynamics are similar to any government or big corporation.

This is the beginning of the end of what I found most fascinating about the ad-hoc national community of slam poetry – that grass-roots anarchy which managed to generate spectacular events like the National Poetry Slam. When Poetry Slam, Inc. became an official non-profit and started referring to by-laws instead of family at meetings like this, something magical about the movement was sacrificed.
 

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Slammin' Becomes SlamNation

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
I had completed my television pilot shot, Slammin’, shot at New York City’s Nuyorican Poets Café, and was shopping it to TV as a series. By then I was hooked into slam poetry in a big way. So in the summer of 1995 I went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Ann Arbor where the National Poetry Slam was happening that year.

There I met the movement’s founder Marc Smith. Man, did he give me the evil eye! He did not trust television people and he was very wary of someone appropriating and perverting the great thing that he had started. He also did not like the fact that Slammin’  was centered in New York, a place he was naturally suspicious of, being from Chicago.
 

 
So he and poets Gary Glazner and Allan Wolf sat me down, and explained their vision of where slam poetry should go and their reservations about putting it on television. I listened carefully and their interest in maintaining the integrity of the movement and keeping it inclusive to represent the diversity of slam poetry across the entire country had resonance. This meeting is the seed that germinated into SlamNation. Eventually I became good friends with all of them and part of the community myself.
 

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SlamNation - Saul Williams Interview: Part 3

 
Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Part 3, Saul Williams on the influence of hip hop on poetry.
 


These series of poignant moments with Saul Williams were captured by our dear friend Gabrielle Bouliane, poet and filmmaker, who recently lost her battle with cancer.  Originally intended as DVD extras for SlamNation, we offer them now as a tribute to the talent of both Gabrielle and Saul.
 

SlamNation DVD 
SlamNation Trailer

SlamNation - Saul Williams Interview: Part 2

 
Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Part 2, Saul Williams on the influence of hip hop on poetry.
 


These series of poignant moments with Saul Williams were captured by our dear friend Gabrielle Bouliane, poet and filmmaker, who recently lost her battle with cancer.  Originally intended as DVD extras for SlamNation, we offer them now as a tribute to the talent of both Gabrielle and Saul.
 

SlamNation DVD 
SlamNation Trailer

SlamNation - Saul Williams Interview: Part 1

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Part 1, Saul Williams on the influence of hip hop on poetry.
 


These series of poignant moments with Saul Williams were captured by our dear friend Gabrielle Bouliane, poet and filmmaker, who recently lost her battle with cancer.  Originally intended as DVD extras for SlamNation, we offer them now as a tribute to the talent of both Gabrielle and Saul.
 

SlamNation DVD 
SlamNation Trailer

SlamNation - Patricia Smith Jukebox

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Patricia Smith is a master of the persona poem, taking on the voice of a character in order to give us insight into their story.
 
 
Here is the complete performance from a poem excerpted in SlamNation.
 

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SlamNation - Jerry Quickley - "Door Broken"

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
A young Jerry Quickley gives great energy in this hilarious outtake from SlamNation.
 
 
He went on to become one of the foremost performance poets in Los Angeles.
 

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SlamNation - "Words Don't Fit in My Mouth"

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Jessica Care Moore delivers a poetic mouthful in this outtake from SlamNation.
 


 

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SlamNation - Let the Be Bee

Posted by Paul Devlin:
 
Back before everyone had a video camera in their pocket, SlamNation co-producer Tom Poole lent a camera to muMs da Schemer (HBO's Oz) and that gave us fresh, candid footage of his fellow Nuyorican slam team mates, Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore, and Beau Sia during their journey to the National Poetry Slam.
 
 
Here's a little sample of them goofing off and just being themselves, before they became famous.

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Slam Poem: Team Austin - "Motor Red"

Posted by Paul Devlin:

Here's the complete version of a classic "group piece" from Team Austin excerpted in SlamNation.

Team Austin had become masters of these ensemble poetry performances, and they were highly favored to win it all at the National Poetry Slam in Portland as a result. Group pieces generally score higher than individual performances. However, Team Austin scored poorly in the finals, and no one is quite sure why. Perhaps there was some backlash against too many group pieces, and the audience wanted to hear more individual voices?

In any case, as can be seen here, Team Austin was great at group pieces, a genre of performance poetry unique to the National Poetry Slam.

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