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Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry Paperback – September 30, 2000
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From Library Journal
"Poems ask only that they be heard, which is the purpose of the slam," Bob Holman says. It has been ten years since Glazner produced the first National Poetry Slam (perhaps best described as a competitive reading), but many poetry enthusiasts remain virtually unaware of the phenomenon. This volume collects an assortment of slam poems and articles about the slams (setting up, judging, becoming participants, and group pieces). Some articles, such as Lisa Martinovic on using props or Daniel S. Solis on slam aesthetics and strategy, are elemental but extremely useful, while Patricia Smith's brilliant piece on persona poetry adds little to the concept of the slam. Adding to the confusion is the growth of the audience for slams and the broadening of their scope to include many poets published by the academy. Are these the same poets whose poems work perfectly well on the page and would not readily be labeled "performance" poetry? Contributors' notes would have been useful. "Good slamming starts with good writing," Solis states, although at times the material here seems closer to stand-up comedy. It's not perfect, but, considering how sparse slam literature is, this book should prove an asset to all poetry collections.DRochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
I love the Slam anthology. Before that, the only thing closest representing the national slam scene was Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapalooza which I edited five years ago. (Oh! And published by Manic D Press! Tell me, Mr. Eleveld, what have YOU contributed towards documenting this spoken word movement? When is your anthology coming out? Those who can't do...become critics. And don't get me started on your sense of aesthetic or the lack of it- the cover is quite lovely despite your opinion.)
Already, gentle Amazon.com reader, you are getting pulled into the controversy that surrounds the poetry slam by its very nature. There are folks who love the national scene for its sense of community, others thrive on the competitive aspects of performance poetry. I recommend you buy the book. It gives an accurate glean of the workings of slam poetry and its politic, even if you don't always agree with it. Some of my favorite poems in the book were by Gayle Danley ('94 Indy Champ from Maryland), Justin Chin (Team San Francisco '95) and Jack McCarthy (still slamming in New England). And Sou McMillian (Worchester), Jeff McDaniel (L.A.), Ellyn Maybe (L.A.), Hal Sirowitz (NYC) and Matthew John Conley (Minneapolis)! And Sheila Donohue (Chicago), Patricia Johnson (Roanoke), Jerry Quickley (L.A.)and Mack Dennis (Oakland)! Okay, let's face it, I know most of the poets in this book and love their work. They are among the most exciting people in the world of contemporary poetry today, the reason I return to the national slam scene year after year.
For the record, I am proud to be one of the main organizers of the National Poetry Slam in Austin in 1998.
Kerouac's ghost must wonder at how formulaic slam poetry has become. From the aggressive, ideological depth of Ginsberg and Burroughs, we now have the regurgitated flavors of Whitman-wannabes evoked pretentiously in the pop-soliloquys now barraging modern poetry readings. Yet, the slam has introduced thousands of young poets that poetry is worth their time. Glazner demonstrates this inconsistency, but not intentionally as we see the up and down quality of the poetry samples he provides.
An excellent part of the book is the description of poetry slam rules, distinguishing local and national rules, and how this form is meant as an oral art form, not a written one. This is the challenge faced by every slam poetry book: how to present it. Some poems here make the transition, and there a few gems worth a read. Marc Smith, founder of the slam, has "My Father's Coat." An interesting poem called "Ali" by Michael R. Brown. opens with the compelling "Five inches shorter than his fighting height" shows some fine imagery and intriguing approaches to poetry meeting culture.
For a deeper look at Beat literature, see the "Beat Reader," or for poetry only, "Beat Poets" edited by Carmela Ciuraru. "Poetry Slam" is a good start, but these books will provide better examples of the style and quality slam poets esteem to reach.
Poetry Slam is a collage of poems and essays from the contemporary poets of the Slam scene. This book fills a void in the Slam, the print edition of several top-rate performance poems. Among the best poems this anthology has to offer are Reggie Gibson (Chicago) Eulogy of Jimi Christ, Roger-Bonair-Agard (New York/Trinidad) ...Naming and Other Christian Things, and Lisa Buscani (Boston) Barefoot in the City. All three poems make the transformation from stage to page successfully. Likewise, funnier pieces by Beau Sia and Big Poppa E are very entertaining. And a rare treasure can be found in Dan Ferri's Head to Head Haiku. What was disappointing, however, was an area that should have been a strength, the essays. Editor Glazner has done a decent job collecting pieces (although the oversight of a Slam memoir by founder Marc Smith is glaringly absent) but his overall editing and his own written piece is lacking. His introduction essay discounts the true upbringings of the poetry Slam, it doesn't answer why the Slam was started. Instead, it offers a sophomoric attempt to create lineage with "accepted" literary devices of the Western literary cannon, the very thing that the Slam rebelled against to begin. And the connections to "Howl" poet Allen Ginsberg, a now dead member of the 1950's Beat Generation? Get over it! Ginsberg is not Slam, Slam is not Beat, and Beat is not Slam! The attempts to connect Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation and Marc Smith's Slam Poetry world are little more than media fodder. So please, stop with the Ginsberg name-dropping! Also, essays by Beth Lisick and Genevieve Cleve play more to the sensibilities of rock-n-roll roadies than poets interested with the written word and audience participation. "Look at me, I'm a wannbe rock star," doesn't translate well to a Slam audience that is supposed to be more interested in community than self-interest. And Jeffery McDaniel's essay reads as an attempt to have academia believe that the Slam writers are valid; name dropping Pulitzer Prize poets, Yale anthologies, and other non-Slam conventions. It is true that the Slam is not isolated, but there is currently so much going on in the Slam that that should be the focus, not second rate proposals toward accreditation. The best non-poetry piece in the anthology comes from former West Side Chicago student, writer and poet Patricia Smith. Her essay on Persona Poems can easily make it into any high school/university writing class as both an exercise and a writing point of departure. This along with the round-table discussion on group poetry pieces make up some ground for the other essays. Despite some very obvious weaknesses (and an incredibly ugly cover) the anthology is a must buy for anyone interested in the Slam world. It is incomplete, and in some places anti-Slam, but that in-itself is a glimpse into the grass-roots phenomenon of the Slam Poetry world created by Chicago's Marc Smith. Overall, this collection allows the reader to view the good, the bad and the ugly of the Slam, and in that, it is complete.