- Launched Hullabaloo: The BC High School Slam Championships along with my festival co-director, RC Weslowski, (aka monkeypudding). We had 13 school teams directly involved and another 5 participated in a prelim bout in Victoria. We arranged collaborations and sponsorships with the Vancouver Art Gallery, DOXA, and The Cultch. These established players on the arts scene gave our upstart project credibility, which led to...
- Wrote applications that helped raise $35,000 for Hullabaloo and WordPlay, the poetry in schools program that I coordinate. Big ups to Lisa Slater (aka succulentpoet) for help with these, especially the big donation from Telus.
- Doubled WordPlay for the second straight year in terms of workshops conducted, revenue generated, and poets paid.
- Conducted dozens of interviews with past and present Van Slammers and collected boxes of archival materials in order to produce "Inkslingers & Linguaphiles: Celebrating 15 Years of Van Slam 1996–2001".
- Then kept interviewing and collecting ephemera, and after 18 months of total research (including part one), wrote the second part "Turning Vancouver on its Ear: Celebrating 15 Years of Van Slam 2002–2011".
- Worked on the organizing committee of the inaugural Vancouver International Poetry Festival.
- Won* the Vancouver Individual Slam Playoff for the first time. Repped Van Slam in Cleveland at IWPS.
- Published poems in PRISM international and CV2.
- Moderated the panel on Spoken Word at Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference.
- Performed eight poetry feature sets in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as countless variety / cabaret show type deals.
- Performed as a festival headliner and the only spoken word artist at the Kispiox Music Valley Festival, in large part due to the organizational awesomeness of magpieulysses.
- Participant in the panel discussion “The Experimental, Traditional and Spoken Word: What is the Future of Poetics?” at the Summer Dreams Festival, also did a feature set.
- Collaborated with Alla Shiskov, Chris Masson and Barbara Adler to form Turtleneck and staged a completely absurd piece of Spoken Weird in collaboration with Sweater Vest (which that night was composed of RC Weslowski solo).
- Facilitated the creation of 35 animated short films with school groups at the Museum of Vancouver as part of the Animating History program.
lying beside another breathing
throats shudder chests heaving
the night eats away the evening
whose sheets is who stealing?
You see, for the past two years, Van Slam has had 10 poets qualify for the Indies Playoffs. Then there's four rounds: 1-minute, 3-minute, 4-minute, 2-minute with the lowest-scoring two poets eliminated each round. That means 4 poets in the final 2-minute round. Up until this year, it has always been scored cumulatively, which has the advantage of giving weight to all your poems in the final decision, but the disadvantage that the competition is usually over and out-of-reach by the last round.
This year it was announced to the poets at the bout that we would be working with a clean slate each round, and that the winner of the 2-minute round would be the champion. I have no problem with the format change, but the fact that the change wasn't communicated to the poets until they arrived at the bout pisses me off mightily. Rule and format changes should never come as surprises. You gotta give poets fair warning.
So, would I have won if it had been scored cumulatively (as originally advertised)? Nope, I would have lost to RC Weslowski by 0.1. I spoke to RC about this. He has a tour of Ontario already planned for October and squeezing in IWPS would have been tricky, so he's fine with it. He's also a very Zen dude, and not one to let something like this annoy him. Still, not sure I could be so accepting in his place.
Anyway, scoring controversary aside, it was a great bout, and all the poets were rocking the stage. I had a great time busting out my new favourite piece "Noise Complaint" in which I re-enact calling in a lack-of-noise complaint to City Hall (which I actually did). It's one of the few pieces where I feel I'm no longer doing poetry, I'm doing spoken word. It doesn't even vaguely resemble lyrical page poetry. It's a rant in the form of a one-sided telephone conversation. I was explaining all this to the outrageously-talented Lucia Misch after she had said something nice about it, and we started talking about the literary and oral traditions and how everyone seems to aim for that part of the Venn diagram where the two overlap, and how maybe that's a bit limiting. "Yeah, enough of this bisexual poetry" Misch said in jest, "Make up your mind already!" which is one of the damned funniest things I've heard in a long time.
Looking forward to Cleveland and messing with heads in the grand tradition of Van Slam trickerism!
Merritt: Well, I'm still waiting for the lyric generator.
Pitchfork: There are text machines, but they're not very well-oiled.
Merritt: The good lyric generator. I can imagine lyrics becoming better written by smart machines rather than stupid musicians. Songwriters generally have nothing to say. They may as well be replaced by machines.
30 Helens of Troy agree
beautiful women are
and skin that
like a victory lap
Thirty thousand Greeks and Trojans agree
on how to hunt for honour
They chase down their Helens
lay siege for their Helens
They polish their bronze breastplates
in Helen's name
If there's one thing
beautiful women are beautiful
they are certain
A poem by Adam Mansbach, read by Samuel L. Jackson.
Check out the brilliant cover art:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Fill in your suggestion to the linguistic equation below, if there are enough good answers, I'll put together a poll and we'll vote in a winner.
A lack of literacy is illiteracy.
A lack of orality is ....
My recent focus on these two terms comes from reading Walter Ong's Orality & Literacy this summer, a book recommended to me by Jack McCarthy and Bob Holman independently of each other.
Orality is the practice of the oral tradition. All spoken word poets are well-versed in orality. Some page poets are too, but many are... unoral? ... mute? My suggestions don't quite work. I bet you have something better in mind. Let's hear it.
trying not to check my email.
I’m sitting in an airplane
looking down at the tops of clouds
trying not to check my email.
I’m being lowered into my grave,
arms pinned to my sides,
eyelids sewn shut,
trying not to obsess
over who might
or might not
to this message.
from his book The Ode Less Travelled