Tonight Nitty Gritty Slam, Albany poets entry to the world of Slam, had its 21st event, now legal to drink (& we did) — upstairs at Valentines while a band set up downstairs. Someone somehow scrounged up a bunch of chairs & benches so most of the crowd had someplace to sit. The good professor, Daniel Nester took over the duties of the open mic, at one point interjecting a white boy’s version of the absent Mojavi‘s attempts at narrative humor.

Thom Francis reads Steve Clark

el Presidenté Thom Francis began with a reading of 2 poems & commentary on some remarks someone posted on FaceBook about literary tradition & that writer’s claim that it all is “dead” (or something to that effect); Thom first read his literary portrait, “Paper Messiah,” then, reaching into “tradition,” read from Open Mic: the Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994) Steve Clark‘s “Poem Car Job.” Thom described this poem as a big influence on him as a young poet.  Back when I first heard this poem at the QE2 in the early 1990s, who would have thought it “tradition”? It wasn’t back then. But it seems that for “Art” (human inspiration) to advance tradition must be seen as unfinished, & therefore open to re-invention.  Less philosophical, Daniel Nester read from his childhood memoirs, “The Last Spanking.”  Jessica Layton did her neighborhood shooting piece from memory, then, as a promotion for the up-coming erotic UGT, “I Want You to Come Inside Me.”

Carri LaCroix Pan hasn’t been out to read in years, but was around in the late 1990s at the QE2 & when I was doing the Third Thursday at Café Web; her short piece was a sexy summer poem, about water. I continued the Summer/sex theme with an old poem, “Park Fantasy” then a new piece, “Hemingway,” written about Nitty Gritty Slam #20. The big problem with being upstairs is one has to downstairs to get a beer, & so I missed the beginning (& title) of the collaborative performance by D. Colin & Elizag, a powerful piece on color & skin.

What started out as a 5-4-2 Slam became, with a late arrival, a 6-4-2 Slam with Slam team members competing against some new faces/voices. In addition there were some judges one rarely sees with the clipboard & marker in their hands, including some new audience members, as well as Carolee Sherwood & me(!). Also judging was Carri, whose connection with Slams goes back many years to Providence, R.I. (where she met Mojavi) before she moved to Albany. I am a particularly picky (shall we say “cranky”?) judge & my scores tend to be lower than most.

Elizag, Poetic Visionz, Shannon Shoemaker
& Thom Francis

Elizag‘s poem “Looking Up” was a real poem shoe-horned into a Slam boot & lost points because it went over 3 minutes. But in my scoring I also gave it less points because it went “too long,” not in time but because it didn’t stop when it was over, a common failing of Slam pieces. The 2 novices, Naomi (with a sex poem, “Falling”) & Geoff didn’t make it out of the first round, but other experienced slammers, Shannon Shoemaker, Poetic Visionz & ILLiptical, along with Elizag did. Shannon carried the sex theme through the 2nd round & into the final where she & Elizag (also a sex poem) battled it out. Of course Shannon’s selection, her strap-on, whip-out-your-dick poem had a big effect on my scoring, since it’s based on my poem, “To My Penis, on our 45th Birthday” & mentions me by name. Poetic Visionz ended up in 3rd place.

The Slam Team has got a couple of competitions coming up soon & will be traveling in the region before heading down south for the Nationals in August. But you can catch the action every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at 7:30PM at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, with an open mic, $5.00.