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|Jason Floyd Williams|
|Slam Poetry as The Blob; Academic Poetry as Handsome Zombies; and Steve McQueen– Congressman to the Next Poetry Movement.
Slam Poetry's birth had semi-admirable features: The father, one construction worker named Marc Smith, wanted to spice-up the Get Me High Lounge open-mike night, so he developed this step-child of modern Poetry– A more aggressive & accessible medium for people, perhaps, a bit disillusioned by the regular mish-mosh, to particpate in. It's no birthday-cake suprise, that in a frame of poetic vacancy, it succeeded. Though, as many movements evolve, the orginial intention & the applications it sprouted are two different delinquents.
The 1958 Sci-Fi/Horror classic, The Blob, featuring Steve McQueen & Aneta Corseaut as Jane Martin, is partially applicable to Slam Poetry: The alien life-form called The Blob meteored into a backwoods section of the States where, a pioneering proto-type of Nick Nolte doing the Una-Bomber thing, sniffs, pokes, and eventually gets the gelatinous-junk on his hand.
Adam & Eve roadster versions of giddy-up 1st date innocence represented by McQueen & Corseaut, pick-up stumbling road-side Hillbilly Jim. By the time they deliver him to the late-shift Doc, The Blob has nearly covered his wilderness-warm arm.
Steve & plain Jane are at the drag-way strip to the hero's adventure– they're buying the Jung archetypal tickets. They are to become analogous to the Next Poetry movement– the idea of replacement. But meanwhile, The Blob begins to indiscriminatley absorb those in its immediate super-balling area: The Deliverance relic, The Doc, The Nurse, and moves into a more populated region of the small city.
As Slam developed from its Chicago inception in 85, 87?, the people/poets it began to absorb were no longer just those tired of "Ivory-tower" Academic Poetry(AP), but those who focused more on the competitive-side of Slam vs the Poetry. Thus, producing multiple web-sites that help advise novice Slam readers/performers to win by:
1. Learn the basics of the actor's trade. Relaxation, breath control, articulation, voice projection & modulation. Do this as a positive daily workout if you're on the poetry circuit, not as a chore left to the night before.
2. Rehearse the performance so thoroughly that the actual reading seems habitual & natural.
3. Entertain. Be genuinely friendly to the audience. Address them directly. Secure attention. Play to their responses.
4. Memorize the pieces sufficiently so that only the odd glance at the script is necessary.
etc. (e.g. www.poetrymagic.co.uk/performing.html)
Slam Poetry has now outgrown what authentic Poetry britches it had, & now runs the street with Performance Art. It happens. Movements with such a surrogate Supe-Bowl-ish complexity & competition-vibe must change. The Blob did.
The Blob– who might've been doing to humans what we do to cows on this planet– lovingly rolled its red mass of special-goo right into the residential movie theater. It kept growing– like the folks who sacrifice full Saturdays for the Chinese buffets. Eventually, whatever human it could & did reach, it absorbed. Think Next Generation's The Borg or your average Super Wal-Mart. It's all-absorbing, non-selection in nutrient intake, led to The Blob's destruction.
Consider if The Blob had enacted a kind of Darwinian-Selection for its meals– the senile & the aged, for example. Then this Blob would be pre-empting Jack "Dr. Death" Kavorkian by several decades. In fact, because it was an alien-organism, it might be allowed, with diplomatic immunity, to continue this useful euthanasia & be thought of as a vital societal component.
That's where Slam Poetry got chubby– the judges mistook feet stomping, vociferous yarps, cursing, dirty jokes, etc., for legit Poetry; and the Slam Poets fashioned near Days Of Our Lives rehearsal scenes, comedy improv, political speeches, into Performance Art giving a hand-job to Poetry in the back-seat of Entertainment.