Ten things I learned at the National Poetry Slam by katydid


A great piece by my friend katydid, a poet and not a slam poet.

[Please make sure you read all the way to
the end, because it has important qualifications to
the cynicism.]

Things I Learned at The Poetry Slam National Finals,
St. Louis, August 7 2004

1.  Usually, things were better when you were a kid.
(The standard exceptions include poverty, rape,
incest, abuse, discrimination, or cancer – other than
that things really were better, because you got to
have recess, freedom from the demands of conformity,
the demands of productivity, and you got relative
safety from harm without having to ask for it or work
for it, or even think about it.)

2.  Iambic meter is most effective when you “slam”
every stressed syllable.
As in… “to BE or NOT to BE”, &c.
(Is that why they call them “slams”?)

3.  There’s a lot of stuff to be poetically pissed off
about.  In the human condition, there’s really nothing
like joy worth mentioning, unless it involves sex with
people you trust.

4.  Poetry that expresses pride is good, but only if
that pride arises from either
a) surviving horrible things
b) being more aware than non-poets that other people

5.  In general, people are shallow.

6.  Middle-class people are especially shallow, and
especially the ones in suburbia, because they are
insulated by their own choice from the suffering of

7.  Stuff you buy in malls or box stores is bad,
unless it’s the DVD player you got so that you can
play last year’s and this year’s Slam Championship
DVDs, (on sale over by the door).

8.  People like it when you shout.  This seems to be
because it most effectively demonstrates deep feeling
and also awakens deep feeling in other people.

9.  In addition to the atrocities mentioned above,
stereotypical instances of human brutality include
leaving babies in trash bags, war, and lynching.  If
these things are never brought to light in the company
of like-minded people, no one would ever notice nor
care, much less try to stop them from happening again.

10.  Stereotyping is bad, unless stereotypes are
poetically useful.

(That’s about it.  I actually was extremely moved by
many poems, and still feel their power today, as
nothing short of breathtaking.  But poetry doesn’t
have to be bitter, self-righteous, or loud to be
moving.  It just has to make me see the world in a way
that I have never seen it before, and make me desire
what is good, and shun what is bad – or just make me
marvel at the things – at the wonders – that human
beings can create, even staying within a three-minute
time limit.)

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