Remember the Open Room?

Been sent some interesting names for the show so far, with early favorites Performance Anxiety, Breaking Form and Word of Mouth. Send more.

Haven’t heard back from Jackie Sheeler yet about the length of tomorrow’s feature so I’m getting a little antsy about my set. There’s a big difference between 20, 30 and 45-minute sets. I don’t like 20-minute sets as I never feel like I get in a good rhythm and always have to leave out a couple of my favorite poems. 30-minutes is solid, enough time to present a range of work without feeling rushed. 45-minutes can be daunting as you have to really nail your flow to keep the audience engaged but it’s also a fun challenge. The longer the set, the better feel for a poet’s style and range you get. Three-poem slam wonders generally flounder past 20 minutes as the bombast gets old and the lack of depth becomes more and more apparent.

I’ve been reading through a lot of my old stuff recently and was surprised by how long it’s been since I’ve read some of them out loud. Read Celluloid Childhood at Acentos on Tuesday and, despite the obvious rust, remembered that it was one of my favorite pieces at one point. The combination of pushing for the new in slam with allowing my own output to take a back seat for so many years has left me in the weird position of having to reconnect with almost all of my work as if it were brand new. Hopefully tomorrow is at least a 30-minute set so I can do a nice mix of the old and new. Well, newish! 😉

BTW, speaking of Acentos, it was another great show this past Tuesday. Oscar and Fish have that oh-so-important homey feel nailed down perfectly. At first, I was a little disappointed in the turnout, having assumed the usual suspects would make a point to show up in support of Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. In retrospect, though, I think that’s exactly what adds to the homey feel. It’s not a scene. The regulars there come for the community. There’s no gimmicks, no condecension, no pretension. Just poetry without judgement.

Reminds me of the Open Room at the Nuyorican when I hosted it back in ’97-98, when we were all just hanging out sharing words and getting drunk. Before SlamNation and 60 Minutes; before Def Poetry was on HBO and Broadway; before Joe Mama, with his three poems and not a single publication credit toured the college circuit hooked up by his agent. Not saying any of these things are bad, per se, but their very existence has changed how (and, I daresay, why) people step up to a mic these days.

Maybe I’m just getting old?

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