“[Marc] announced a three-year sabbatical in ’99; by the fall of 2001 he was back. Without him, he says, things had gotten so bad that this year’s 14th annual National Poetry Slam… wouldn’t be happening otherwise.”
“He says that some of the people who tried to step in while he was gone were looking to use the slam for personal gain. ‘This thing that I started and have put so much energy into [but] have never exploited for my own purposes. I was pissed off.”
I wasn’t going to address this until I had a chance to read the full article but, with Nationals a couple of days away, it’s just been burning at the back of my brain since I came across the above excerpt on Morris Stegosaurus’ journal. It’s from an article in the Chicago Reader (a free alternative weekly that charges for their archives), supposedly about the National Poetry Slam but, apparently, the writer went for the dirt and Marc bit.
I’ll say this: Marc Smith has some balls. He’s also a completely hypocritical asshole.
As one of the people who “tried to step in while he was gone,” I take offense at the assertion that I, or any of the others that dared to disagree with Camp Smith, tried to use the slam for personal gain.
Being on the executive council of Poetry Slam, Inc. was probably THE most thankless job I’ve ever had. The first meeting I was in – Slammaster’s, April 2001 – a mere couple of hours after being ELECTED to the council, I watched in shocked silence as Deb Marsh and company attempted a coup, playing coy as she blindsided Mike Henry with an unexpected challenge for the position of President. The lines were drawn – Camp Smith (the old-timers loyal to Marc – not the slam, but Marc himself!- at any cost) vs. the relative newcomers like myself, and the stage was set.
The obstacles put in place by the Marsh duo and Henry Sampson (sweet guy, but he’ll cut your throat in a minute if Marc asked him to), not to mention their outright refusal to provide important information like budget numbers made the next few months leading up to Nationals in Seattle (a generally agreed upon fiasco of an event) absolutely hellish, with never-ending battles over everything, large and small. During that time, my primary focus was getting the membership program (something Deb Marsh ran half-assed from the beginning) fleshed out for presentation and approval at the special Slammamster’s meeting during Nationals. I did, and now PSI has a legitimate source of year-round revenue for the first time. How selfish of me, right?
[Note: Others – notably Mike Henry, Phil West and Paula Friedrich – were also focused on specific goals and were similarly blocked in their efforts by the uncooperative cabal, but I’m only speaking of my personal experience here.]
September 11th put the kibosh on most things PSI and, by the time the EC was ready to roll in the mud again, I was moving to Virginia and happily stepped down from my position. At the same time, Marc was quietly making his heralded return behind the scenes, no election held, no questions asked.
Now, go take a look at www.slampapi.com for someone “us[ing] the slam for personal gain.” In the article above, Marc says he’s “never exploited [the slam] for [his] own purposes.” Hello? What is he WITHOUT the slam? Creating the slam is his sole claim to fame and his own web site shouts it to the mountaintops!
When he stepped down from PSI back in ’99, one of his stated reasons was to move on and focus on his own art again. Think back to that period. Do you remember any non-slam activities of his? That book? As his own bio notes: “Smith’s first published book, Crowdpleaser, celebrates The Green Mill, particularly its audiences who remain at the core of the Slam’s success.”
He tried to walk away from slam (not completely, though, as he continued to host the weekly slam at the Green Mill) and quickly realized he had nothing else going for him. So he came back, playing the role of the noble father rescuing his poor children from the evil clutches of…well, the people he left them with, and reinstalled himself as President for Life.
Say that out loud: President for Life.
Marc Smith can kiss my ass. I hope he selflessly runs PSI into the fucking ground and becomes just another footnote (like in Aloud, his favorite anthology) in a movement he’s yet to realize is both much bigger than he’ll ever be and has grown way beyond his grasp to ever seize control of.
Enjoy this Nationals. My money says this will likely be the last one of any importance. I hope an all-black team of freestyling political poets wins the damn Finals and shoves the trophy up his ass.