ok so i am in portland slam semis tonight and i’m not super nervous, but more feeling like i would feel for comfortable testing out some new material at slams where the stakes werent so high, but i guess we’ll just have to take a breath and take a chance and see if it flies. good news is, if i dont make finals tonight, there will be a couple more opportunities. i’ll keep ya’ll posted as to what happens tonight.
so last night I performed again and conducted my social experiment by doing “thatpoemidontdoanymore” just to see how it would fair and sure enough, it totally killed.
This was kinda of disappointing, however, it proved my point about what that audience likes to hear about(i got more reactions/support from the audience from that poem than from the other poems i did last night that were better representations of my writing skills and me as an artist).
but on a whole, I think the experience was good for me because it showed the audiance that i could be versitile and that I could bring them a variety of emotions/topics. Which is good for me as a writer, as for many years I have convinced myself that I am “not funny” or that I cant “be funny” on stage, and the experience amped up a personal challenge to be even more versitile in stepping out of my “doom and gloom” comfort zone and try out new material.
That being said, i made it to the final round last night which means that I am in semi finals next sunday and have a LOT of writing and practicing to do…
As a woman involved in the poetry slam scene over a long(ish) period of time, I have seen many positive advances for the role of females in this art form. with events such as the Women of the World Poetry slam added to PSi’s cannon of National Slam events, it is clear that the presence of women and their voices are valid, important, and essential to the growth of our scene. There are many positive female slam role models in the community, and strong voices who not only stand up for women in the scene, but women around the world. With further communication and support of each other as women, and as artists, I have felt a greater sense of commradery amongst the women in the scene on a whole and much moreso now than I did 10 or even 5 years ago.
That being said, we still have a long way to go.
Last week I slammed at my local poetry show for the first time in over a year. I was one of 4 women in the slam(out of 8, which is great!), but I was disappointed to see that literally all of the other women’s poems were all about love or sex, while mine was about neither. I did not advance to the next round in the slam, but all of the other women did, and in the second round also all did poems that were about…love or sex.
Could it be said that my poem was not as good as the other ones performed by those women?
However, what was interesting for me to see was that the men who performed had many different topics to choose from. Love. Sex. Growing up. Issues with their parents/family. Social Injustice. Politics, Etc. Their topics of conversation and writing were not limited to those two genres as they seemed to be for the women, and not only that, the audience responded positively to the men and all of the topics they chose to talk about.
so my question is this: In that context, was the audience saying that women are not allowed to express themselves or talk about anything other than love or sex?
Now I am in no way saying that women(or let’s just say people) should not write poems about love or sex. These are both essential human feelings and emotions(which I totally enjoy, mind you!). What bothers me, and what has bothered me a lot throughout my time in slam, is that some audiences only ever want to see those types of poems from women as if they are 2 demensional charactatures without the same depth and layers of experience offered to the male poets who take the stage.
Here’s another example:
The first poem I would call “my first slam poem” starts off literally with “He wanted me to shave my pussy…” and then kinda turns the idea of the “sexiness” of that line into a rant about infantilizing adult women and over-sexualizing small girls.
I do not do this poem anymore.
The majority of responses I got from that poem were from men and usually had to do with their own personal preferences for how women’s pubic hair should be maintained, or defending those preferences, and it appeared as if they completely missed the point because they were too hung up on the fact that I was (hypothetically) talking about my vagina on stage and completely missed the point I was trying to make in the first place (or confirmed it, depending on your perspective).
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I was told by a couple men in the scene to “not sell my tits short” when it comes to my attire on stage, implying that I should wear low cut shirts to gain more points from judges, and as a result to this day, I dress very conservitavely on stage to not distract from the poem I am performing (this is just a personal choice, and is in no way a choice I would enforce on individual poets, as I think men and women should perform in what makes them feel the most comfortable and “badass” on stage.)
I’ve also heard things like “not another rape poem”, “Not another molestation poem”, “not another abortion poem”, etc. These comments are (usually) from men and are very telling about the idea of women having our voices heard, and what we are willing to let them say in both slam and larger society(as, if you notice, all of those topics are also largely unaddressed by society).
(please note that there are also many righteous and supportive men in the community as well. I know I’m giving some harsh extreme examples here, but it’s more for the sake of looking at society as a whole and subtle sexism that saturates it no matter what)
In a nutshell, I think each poetry scene is a product of the larger community, and if that is so, than it seems to me that this particular community needs to rethink the kinds of things it wants to hear from female perspectives, or needs to let go of the expectations for what women can talk about. It could be said that I am one of those people not letting women express themselves by saying they “shouldnt write about love or sex”
I am not saying that at all. Authenticity is key, so write what is real for you. What I am saying is that we dont have to limit ourselves to any topics and we have so much else to talk about!
Most of the things I write about are connected to my being female, but are not about love or sex(although I’ll admit, even I have some of those kind of poems too!) More importantly, they are about me as a human being first and foremost.
for shits and giggles, I’m going to do that Shaved Pussy poem tomorrow at the slam and see how it does….I’ll let ya’ll know what happens….
in the meantime, here are some links to some great poems by some amazing women:
oh yeah, and if youre gonna write a love poem, do it like this 😉
I dont usually buy books for writing technique, etc.
Truth be told, it has more to do with the fact that I am broke and more of a library than amazon kinda gal. Nevertheless, I just had to throw down some cash for this little gem of a book, which I highly recommend.
“Glitter in the Blood” is an easy to read book that challenges you as a poet with intriguing creativty-inducing writing assignments, and witty style. I encourage anyone to check it out if you want to step outside of your comfort zone, try something new, and deepen your pockets.
Khary Jackson is an incredible writer, and although this is not one of his best known performance pieces, it is undoubtedly one of my favorite poems of all time. Vivid imagery, and dark subject matter=right up my alley! Please give it a listen and prepare to be creeped out….
People often ask me this questions and honestly, it’s been about 12 years and sometimes I can’t even remember what led me to doing what I do. However, if I look back, I already had some of the groundwork in place by the time I took the stage and began reading my own work. For years as a child and teenager I was involved with the local children’s theatre as a backstage hand, but very rarely acted, although I hung out with many kids who did. I was also a playwright, and at age 16 I had the great opportunity to have one of my plays produced by a professional theatre company, so I was familiar with stage blocking, and writing dramatic monologues. I had been writing “bad teenage poetry” the entire time as an outlet for my angst, but never performed it. My poetry back then (as I recall) was very “wordy” and pretty. I liked using all the big words I could (If I ever find one of those poetry relics, I’ll be sure to post it ), but I was scared of performing onstage.
I became involved with the Rocky Horror Picture Show theatre scene around age 16 as well and thats when my dramtic side really came out. I became friends with the “cast” members, dressed up in ridiculous outfits and was invited onstage occasionally. I told one of the cast that I wrote poetry, and it just so happend that he ran a poetry slam in the area and invited me to come perform.
and that was it. I was hooked.
As I was exposed to peroformance poetry, I began to write my poems in a different way, and many of them became cathartic pieces that dealt with many traumas I had encountered in childhood. Although I dont really feel like i blossomed as a writer until I was maybe around 18 or 19, my first 2 years in the slam scene were pretty interesting. Youth Speaks wasnt as big of a thing back then so all the young folk slammed with all the seasoned adults in the scene, which was both intimidating and inspiring. I am very greatful that this was my experience as I think it really did help me to be a better writer in the end as some of my contemporaries at the time are still some of the best writers and performers I have ever seen.
thats kind of it in a nutshell 🙂