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On IWPS Playoffs

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Sep. 13th, 2011 | 11:50 am

Last night was Van Slam's Indies Playoffs to determine who reps us at the Individual World Poetry Slam in Cleveland this October and the Canadian Indies right here in Vancouver next April. I thought it could quickly turn into a coronation for much-loved superpoet and Van Slam legend monkeypudding, but because of a somewhat weird change in the scoring rules (which I had nothing to do with), I ended up winning. Not that I didn't kick ass, I did, but the outcome was, let's say, complicated.

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!

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Comments {11}


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from: skonen_blades
date: Sep. 13th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)

I can dig that.

We talked about time-limit grace periods but we didn't talk about scoring. If it had come up, we'd have talked about it. As I understand it, the rules committee is there to settle disputes after they've been brought to the attention of the rules committee. Like the grace period. And no one asked.

I didn't think it was a last-minute change. I couldn't find any information about it, no one seemed to really remember and it just sort of drifted into "okay I guess clean slate it is then." Not so much a change as just a conclusion. And when you were like "Wait, what? Clean slate?" I was totally willing to tell Lucia to hold on a second and change it up.

I also think it was brought up that clean-slate scoring prevents one poet from running away from the pack early one and walking away with the competition. So clean slate is better.

However, that's all beside the point. I hear what you're saying. Sean left last week, Spelt was bout managing, Lucia was hosting, and I was the last Slam Master around. Between us all, there should have been better communication about that aspect of the competition.

Like RC said, it was a great show and a great night and a great win by you, clean slate or not. I think that there was only a .1 difference in cumulative versus clean slate shows how close of a race it was.

Again, I heartily apologize for the confusion and any hard feelings that have arisen.

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(no subject)

from: faust_mckenzie
date: Sep. 13th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)

Right, I hear what you're saying.

I guess what bothers me is I don't believe that the poets should have to ask about every detail of a competition just to make sure that it's the same as the year before.

I believe it's on the shoulders of those who are making changes to the format of important competitions (and they are changes when they are different than what happened in previous years) to communicate them to all the poets loudly and clearly beforehand. That way everyone knows what they are getting into, and everyone has fair warning about what they need to prepare for.

Whether the change happened at the last-minute, or weeks beforehand, I didn't hear about it until that night, and I'm wired into every possible communication channel. I didn't raise an objection because I wanted to focus on doing my poems and I knew that getting into a debate with Angus right before the slam was not going to allow me to do that.

I would highly advise the rule committee to have a debrief about this incident to make sure that it doesn't repeat itself in the future.

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(no subject)

from: skonen_blades
date: Sep. 13th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)

Yeah. Totally agreed.

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