If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem!

That’s a great line from the United States of Poetry CD, but I don’t remember from whom.

It came to mind because I stopped by 13 last night for the first time in several months to catch the first semi-final slam of the season and Marc Smith’s feature set, having never seen him do more than one poem. I’ve now still only ever seen him do one poem (though not the same one each time) since he pulled off what seemed like a 15-minute riff that felt oddly affected to these jaded ears.

The whole slam movement has calcified so badly that almost nothing catches my attention any more.Case in point, the semi-finals, which theoretically should feature some of the, if not best, certainly more engaging performances of any given Monday, but only served to reinforce my sense that slam is dead in the water as a medium. Even Marty, who I still love, failed to really move me, particularly not with two well-written but ill-conceived poems that hinged on taking the likes of Katie Couric and Pamela Anderson to task. Not a lot of life in that horse, you know.

I kept my own score of the slam, curious to see how far off my ear was from the official judges, and wasn’t the least bit surprised that Marty was the winner on my card (I can’t remember who actually won last night), nor that Jacob didn’t make the cut at all while I had him coming in second.

Ironically, they had copies of The Spoken Word Revolution Redux in the house, which includes my old essay, The Revolution Will Be, and I couldn’t possibly feel more disconnected from the main thrust of it than I did last night.

Poetry stopped being a pleasure for me a long time ago, and it’s only the social aspect that continues to bring me back now and then, as I still have several old friends on the scene, as well as some new ones I’ve met over the past few years who listen to me prattle on about the old days and how things have and haven’t changed. It’s a tiresome discussion at times, but a necessary one for the newcomers who don’t see the potential tar pit they’re about to step into.

“Every revolution becomes an institution. Though it’s being adopted in academia, the main movement is still very radical. It’s still fresh and evolving. The mission isn’t anywhere near completed.”
–Marc Smith

Marc said that back in early-1999 — months before he stepped down from the “institution” he fathered only to return a few years later, dissatisfied with how things were going (and then infamously going down in flames while hosting the finals of the 2003 National Poetry Slam) — and while slam has definitely become institutionalized, one could argue that it’s ill-defined mission is far, far from being completed.

If I were writing that essay today, I’d go so far to say that it will never be completed; not by slam and its practitioners, at least.

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