In March, I attended the Women of the World Poetry Slam for the 6th year in a row. This year, I was on the waiting list to compete up until the Sunday before the event, when I received an email from Poetry Slam, Inc., telling me I was being taken off the waiting list.
I had already resigned myself to laying by the pool (weather permitting) and just hanging out and drinking and listening to poetry. But why not just keep it relaxed and also read some poems in front of an audience? Why do these big competitions have to be about the competition all the time? Yeah, that’s what I thought, so I decided that I’d go, and I’d compete, but given I was in the middle of a St. Patrick’s weekend and I work at an Irish Pub, I was not going to wear myself ragged trying to practice or memorize new poems or what-not. I decided I’d go and read all new work – work that I hadn’t shared on the WOWPS stage before. Fresh work, right out of my journal.
So that’s what I did. And it was liberating. I watched some of the other competitors have the pre-show gitters, I witnessed stressed out faces looking for people to practice poems with, I saw the nerves on stage, and to be honest, I missed that part of the competition a little bit. But I also had so much fun not doing any of that.
The first night, I pulled out two funny pieces, and the audience appreciated it. I was mentioned on Slam Center (the ESPN of poetry slam – you can go listen to the podcast now if you’d like) for my humor. But I was practically mathed out of finals. I mean, I COULD have tried to win my two bouts Friday night and math maybe would have pushed me into finals, but I still had new poems I wanted to do, and figured that was longer of shot I was interested in attempting.
Friday night, I went into the 2 minute round with a vulnerable poem about suicide. It was a piece I really wanted to do, in part because it’s what’s been consuming my writing for the last 4 years, and in part because I wanted to show this national group of poets that I’m not just a funny poet. I went over time, but was proud of the performance. In the 3 minute round, I performed a new piece called Found Letter from the Cute Barista Girl to the Male Poet. By that point in the bout, there hadn’t been much humor, and the audience really needed it. So I let them soak it up. When I practiced the piece, it clocked in at 2 minutes 40 seconds. A good 30 second buffer for laughter. I ended up getting a 1.0 time penalty, which means that I added 51-60 seconds onto the poem due to crowd response in the poem. That’s a lot of laughs. The performance was again mentioned during Slam Center!
Lit Slam, who attended WOWPS for the 2nd year in a row runs a competition for the audience – all the members of the audience have the opportunity to vote for their favorite poems of the bout and the top poems make it into a digital anthology called Alight, The Best Loved Poems of WOWPS. Cute Barista Girl made it into the anthology and will be coming out this summer! (Here’s a link to last year’s anthology)
I couldn’t be more pleased.
But besides me, y’all, this years Women of the World Poetry Slam contained some of the most amazing performances and poems that I’ve seen at a competition. Every year there are stand-outs. When you’re like, wow, Tiffany Love (made up name) totally rocked it this year. But WOWPS2014 was a complete rock out. There were so amazing voices. There were out of this world performances (I’m thinking of Cheryl Maddalena’s performance as a sacrificial poet). And the women going into finals – well, I had no idea who had the best chance of winning that – they were all strong writers with great stage presence.
That said, congratulations to Dominique Christina for taking home the gold at this year’s tournament – also using at least one brand spanking new piece read from her iPad. Side note: Apple should really start sponsoring these poets!
Oh, and I even made it into the Tittler (the satirical gossip newspaper of WOWPS).
I don’t think I will be able to go to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland this year, and I’m not even sad about it having had this experience at WOWPS this year.