For those of you who do not know, Spoken Word Poetry is probably my latest and greatest....obsession. (I need a better word for these things.) ...Latest and greatest hobby. And it is really just poetry that is written to be performed. (Meaning, it is often more dramatic in nature.) Then, there are competitions called "Slams" in which poets perform their poetry amidst much applause, cheering, and audience judges. Rules include: the poem must be original, 3 minute time limit, and prohibition of props. Other than that, there are virtually no limitations on the poem's content, style, form, or tempo. It's pretty cool stuff.
My friends Kristin and Sabina introduced it to me earlier this semester, and I fell in love with it. I looked up poets on YouTube and started crafting my own and practiced my poems in front of a camera or my family or the old folks at Hundred Palms and the homeschool group...
Well, last night, I competed at a poetry slam for the FIRST TIME EVER!!!!! It was so exciting! I'm still replaying all the poems that were performed, in my head. Kristin and Sabina were out of town so I invited Melissa and Nicole, but they bailed on me last minute. And I thought, "you know what? I've been trying to go to one of these things since February and I'm going! Friends or not!" So that's exactly what I did. I went by myself. O_o
The first ten minutes were the scariest. I was alone. I'd arrived early and the student committee was still talking. Those not in it, were mingling with one another--in a circle. It was a closed group to me. I sat by myself. I started to question whether or not I should've come. But after the committee finished, a couple girls- Megan and Kay introduced themselves to me and everything was brighter from there.
I was there for a workshop and we talked about community. How we bring something to every community we enter and it is up to us to decide what we are going to bring. And we talked about TYPS as a community; what were we bringing to the TYPS community today? Then we did an exercise, answering questions and passing a long rope to one another. There were only four questions, but they brought us together in a way that I have never seen before.. We talked about our siblings, what poetry means, someone we've lost, and someone who makes us laugh. The third question in particular was profound. In sharing our pain, we were brought closer together. It was awesome! At the end of the questions, the rope had criss-crossed the circle, creating a web of connections. We talked about how it's those connections that make up a community.
Then we did a free write on community and hung out. A few people practiced their poetry, asking one another for feedback. (this is about the time that I began to second guess the quality of my poetry, but I'd already signed up to compete.) I mingled and talked to a lot of people. They were friendly...and comfortable with each other. They were really touchy feely (not in a sexual way, but they just touched each other a lot. A lot more than homeschoolers do.)- which is something I've had little exposure to.
When the competition began, that's when the nerves sunk in. My stomach was doing backflips. I was fifth. I drank water like it was going out of style. But when I got up to the mike, I just performed. It was just me and my voice, and that's all that mattered. I performed, "Are You Happy Now?" first, and the poets were snapping almost the whole time. I watched the video of myself performing and I realize I could've paused more, but I was getting into it. Everyone cheered so loudly afterward. They all said it was great. Poets I deeply respect as better than me said it was really good. My new friend Meghan said she didn't cry a lot, but that almost made her cry. That it described her life exactly. Strangers in the audience- people I didn't even know told me it was beautiful. I was stunned. I scored really high as well. An 8, three 9's and a 10. I was so surprised and grateful for everyone's words. It was very validating.
The poem in particular (which is the one in the video above) is not a poem specifically about me. But it echoes my struggles with food over the recent months. The first time I performed this poem, was at Hundred Palms and it was difficult because my family and friends were there. I have put significant pieces of myself into this poem and it can be scary to lay yourself vulnerable before others. (Which is probably the reason why I chickened out and performed a different poem for CHET-SE's talent show in March) But it is a poem that is dear to my heart.
I ended up going to round two, in which I performed the train poem. It didn't score quite as high as the first, and it wasn't enough to get into the final round, but it was so satisfying to perform, I didn't even care. Except now, I have an impossible reputation to keep up. >.< They all said it was good the second time too, though their enthusiasm might've been a little less. I heard Meghan whisper a sweet low, "Darn." when they announced I hadn't made the top three. But I was too happy to worry about it. The other poets were outstanding; it was just as magical as watching videoes, only this time, I got to be part of it.
Afterwards, they had a rap battle in front of the cafe. It was so epic. Juanye was beatboxing, insults were flying, and teenagers cheering saying, "ohhhh!" with every great burn. It was cool. It almost made me wish I could freestyle rap. (almost!) When I got home, I just felt so...overstimulated, I guess. I needed to decompress, but not in a bad way. I just wanted to think. And I did. I couldn't stop thinking. *sigh* it was the most wonderful type of exhaustion I've ever felt. I felt encouraged, invigorated, inspired! It was such an amazing opportunity and I'm glad I didn't let my fear of being alone keep me from going. I realize now, that if I had gone with friends, I probably wouldn't have branched out to as many people.
I am so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to enter this community and be part of their family and I promised I would be back. It felt so amazing to just be accepted without having to prove myself, (I think I did prove myself with my first poem.) and I'll be working on some new poems for the next slam!