Author Topic: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?  (Read 22890 times)

Steve

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #45 on: August 27, 2009, 10:59:30 AM »
My father, who had almost no sense of aesthetics, understood this argument. In his "den" was a photograph of a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans with a caption below it which said, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like."

Ironically, this admission of ignorance says as much about the human condition and our response to aesthetics as some more studied response might.

I do not favor a change from our current process of selecting judges (although I still maintain it is not random--random would be to put all members of the audience into a hat and draw them out without regard to age, gender, ethnicity, relationship to the poets, etc.).

To achieve Tom's objectives, it might be appropriate to give judges some kind of rubric by which to judge, but the agreement on that rubric will not happen in my lifetime. This thread is the evidence to support that claim. Until we can all agree on the aesthetic, we are stuck with our admittedly flawed system and it is this flawed system which creates the overarching ethic in regard to the "value" of winning a slam. It feels good, and we use those titles to promote poetic objectives, but those of us inside the circle know how much luck plays a part. Can't take the luck aspect out of it without damaging the rest of the Slam fabric.

AmyD

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #46 on: August 27, 2009, 11:12:28 AM »
I'm hearing more than one issue here.  One is that we all have differing opinions of what should score well.  We are not going to fix that.

The other, though, is the complaint that some judges think a 5 is an average score while others think 8 is an average score, and at the end of the nights, that hurts the teams in the bout with the former.  That problem, if it is one, can probably be addressed by a little more coaching of the judges by the MC/Bout Manager.  I know we give them a little sheet of instructions, but is that enough?

I am of the opinion that there are many bouts where no poem deserves a ten.  There are also bouts where a poem deserves a five.  Neither of those things tend to happen.

The Mexican

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #47 on: August 28, 2009, 02:22:33 AM »
I think many of you make good points.

I think Xero and Steve make great points.

And you're right Steve, there's nothing random about it, maybe we should take that word out of the rule book, because I go out of my to look for five judges that have as little in common with one another as possible.  And I do lean toward one particular kind of judge, the judge who was dragged there by a friend, or who walked into the slam by accident.  I tend to like the first timer more than I do most poets.  The high school science teachers, the accountants, the yardmen, the barbers, etc. I think they make the best judges because people like us, writers, actors, poets and whatnot, maybe we're a little too close to the subject.  Was finding these kinds of judges an easy thing to do at Nats this year?  No.  But as a bout manager for three bouts I think I did a good job of selecting judges.  Two of the three bouts were tightly contested between two of the four competing teams and decided in the final round by a slim margin.  One of the bouts was tightly contested by three of the four competing teams and decided in the final round by a slim margin.  I think every panel of judges that I saw at Nats including the one I witnessed judging the Finals Championship bout did a very good job.  I think that says a great deal about our bout managers and Bill and Erik who trained us and our judges at this year's Nationals.  Maybe there was a bout this year where the "better team" (whatever that means) got screwed by the judges, but I didn't hear about it, and I didn't see it.  Did you TS?

If a judge has the capacity to feel, if they have a gut and aren't afraid to follow it then they are qualified.

If you think five people in a bar who may or may not know anything about poetry, who may be slightly drunk or slightly devout, who might like the look of you or might not, who may be heartbroken or madly in love aren't worth your time, you're welcome to do whatever you like with your summer.  If you want to slam, however, I'll see you next August.

Mike Simms

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #48 on: August 28, 2009, 10:08:00 AM »
The way I see it, if you are coming to NPS thinking that it is a fair competition then you need to stay home. In most ‘sports’ there is a formula to win, draft the best players, get a good coach , train hard, and you will be the best if not one of the best teams in the league.

With slam, you can train real hard, have really good poets and get your ass handed to you, did you present the worst poetry in the room….who knows. Slam is unfair in many ways. It is unfair in the fact that you may get in a dog fight with 4 good teams and get a 3 but have a higher score than the person that took a 1 but was in a bout with four whack teams (yes there are whack teams and whack poets). What if UNC and Michigan met in the first round of the NCAA tourney, it would not happen because basketball is a fair competition.

Rules like the ones you are proposing will in fact elevate some of those issues, and move slam more towards a realm where there is more “fairness” in the way the comp is scored and judged.

So I applaud you for having the discussion but I don’t think it is a good idea, one because it is a sliding slope of impossible, what you are trying to do is regulate subjectivity. What you are saying is ‘someone’ will be able to decide what is ‘best’ poetry, and then teach the selected judges what to look for and how to score it. 

And two, well I don’t really have a two, but if you have a one you have to have a two.

The current system is flawed, but slam is flawed, that’s why we love, and hate it, and every poet learns this the first time they deliver what they know is one of the best poems in a comp and don’t even get out of the first round. You pick up your pride, you work harder, and you continue to dedicate yourself to this untamable beast.

Scott Woods

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #49 on: August 28, 2009, 10:32:54 AM »
Mike, I agree.

Myself, I always have two problems with these discussions:

1) That Slam is analagous to sports.
Just because we use a point system doesn't make it a sport.  You don't earn points in slam.  You are awarded points.  Big difference.  Actual sports have removed the objectivity of what a point is comprised of: put the ball in the basket, no argument, a point.  Carry the ball across this line on the ground, no discussion, point.  Sports are concrete in this regard, while almost nothing in Slam is concrete.  Slam borrows from sports.  It is NOT a sport.  It is a talent show.

Aside: The only subjective part to actual sports are breaches of rules.  But in Slam?  The entire act - creating, performing and judging - is subjective, like a breakfast cereal choice.

2) That Slam is "flawed".
It is only as flawed as any other talent show.

johnmiller37

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #50 on: August 28, 2009, 12:50:57 PM »
Mike, I agree.

Myself, I always have two problems with these discussions:

1) That Slam is analagous to sports.
Just because we use a point system doesn't make it a sport.  You don't earn points in slam.  You are awarded points.  Big difference.  Actual sports have removed the objectivity of what a point is comprised of: put the ball in the basket, no argument, a point.  Carry the ball across this line on the ground, no discussion, point.  Sports are concrete in this regard, while almost nothing in Slam is concrete.  Slam borrows from sports.  It is NOT a sport.  It is a talent show.


The sport that comes to mind to compare slam to is figure skating or cheerleading...Judges award points
I wish I could be just write for you

Scott Woods

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #51 on: August 28, 2009, 01:34:42 PM »
Really?  Figure skating?  Your'e going to try and put "figure skating" on the table?  lol

Anyhow, it still falters in so much as figure skating has very clear style executions and expectations, nto to mention qualified judging to ensure those standards are held.  Ball in net = double flip, not art.

tabannon

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #52 on: August 28, 2009, 03:38:10 PM »
Personally, I would advocate banning any poets - especially slam poets - from being judges at the National Poetry Slam. I would go so far as to propose that as a voting item on the agenda of our next meeting. I'm tired of New England poet judges at bouts with Midwest teams. (Not bitter or anything.)
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Nicole Homer

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #53 on: August 29, 2009, 04:11:57 PM »
Personally, I would advocate banning any poets - especially slam poets - from being judges at the National Poetry Slam

Not sure about poets in general but I'd like a ban that includes the families of slam poets (whether their relatives are competing or not).

Dahled

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #54 on: August 29, 2009, 06:15:15 PM »
Really?  Figure skating?  Your'e going to try and put "figure skating" on the table?  lol

Anyhow, it still falters in so much as figure skating has very clear style executions and expectations, nto to mention qualified judging to ensure those standards are held.  Ball in net = double flip, not art.

more like competitive ballroom dance actually.

TSPrunier

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #55 on: August 30, 2009, 10:10:23 PM »
And "don't be a rapper, don't be a performer, don't be academic" IS a particular set of aesthetic preferences, but because they'e YOUR preferences you've summed them up under the heading of POETRY, thus implying that anyone who does stuff that you don't like is not doing POETRY.

That is not my idea of what poetry, performed, slammed or written, should be. The thing I love about slam is that ANYTHING goes, I just wish that 'anything' was more lyrical and less about the popularity of the person performing on stage, or worse - someone wrapping trite scribblings in a gimmick instead of doing the work of a writer to fool the randomly selected judges into knee-jerk liking them.

Some rap is poetry, slam is nothing without performance and I would argue (most definitely at the local level) that some knowledge of poetry, like forms or being able to differentiate between metaphor and simile (as opposed to including those two buzzwords in a poem) is in order for a poem being offered to audiences at the National Poetry Slam.

Who knows? Preselected, qualified judges may run my b.s. stanzas right outta town.

Sheesh!

TSPrunier

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #56 on: August 30, 2009, 10:39:39 PM »
Maybe there was a bout this year where the "better team" (whatever that means) got screwed by the judges, but I didn't hear about it, and I didn't see it.  Did you TS?

Mex, I appreciate your comment and think that your efforts at this year's NPS are indeed noble and in the spirit of slam. I also thank you for being a volunteer at NPS. It's not the poets or judges that make this event go - it's people like you. For that I am thankful to be able to have this (at times heated) discussion.

But, to answer your question:

This year, I attended five prelim bouts, a semi and finals. Of the five prelims, I would argue that three of the outcomes were not based on the best poetry offered that night. Not by my standard of what poetry is, but by the combination of writing to a common human experience and an engaging and original performance.

Of the three NPS's I've attended ('06, '07, '09), I would say that two of the three semis and two of the three finals I saw were won by the team offering the best poetry of the evening. And by "poetry," I do not mean to my personal preference, but the best combination of writing, universality of subject, editing and polished performance.

In prelims, however, I've seen great poetry get lambasted by erratic judging, ridiculous score creep and teams winning because they brought the most sycophants to not only cheer, but 'sing along' with the poet on stage, eliminating all possibility of a dark horse contender advancing to semis or beyond.

And yes, I'll see you next August.




TSPrunier

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #57 on: August 30, 2009, 10:55:12 PM »
... So I applaud you for having the discussion but I don’t think it is a good idea, one because it is a sliding slope of impossible, what you are trying to do is regulate subjectivity. What you are saying is ‘someone’ will be able to decide what is ‘best’ poetry, and then teach the selected judges what to look for and how to score it. 

You couldn't be more right in the first sentence. The second sentence, however, assumes that the preselected judges would be told what is the best type of poetry. This wasn't necessarily explained in the previous three pages, so let me clarify: The judges would have varied opinions, via their experiences as poets, educators, talent evaluators, etc., and their judging would remain subjective. They would not be in teams like a crew of refs for a football game, but randomly deployed to bouts, and no same five judges would be together for more than one bout.

The current system is flawed, but slam is flawed, that’s why we love, and hate it, and every poet learns this the first time they deliver what they know is one of the best poems in a comp and don’t even get out of the first round. You pick up your pride, you work harder, and you continue to dedicate yourself to this untamable beast.

Again we agree, but the thing I see more new poets do - instead of get inspired to learn more about poetry - is to imitate that which routinely scores well. In recent travels, I was at a venue which is home to several legends or soon-to-be legends in slam, and every darned poet there sounded exactly like two of these legends. Every single one, save the one dude who sounded just like Ed Mabrey. My concern is that people run off to YouTube or buy NPS DVDs and imitate what made finals stage and lose their own voice.

Problem is, those who imitate, or write only to score well, fade away from slam before too long. This is the whole 'writing to an aesthetic.' If we had preselected judges each year, the kind that consider editing and imagery as well as stage presence, we might see the number of whack poets/teams disappear and the number of inspired writers increase.

Sorry, a little off-topic, but something I think we can both agree upon. I also agree that you need to first get knocked down to learn what it is you're fighting for, but you shouldn't just clone Rudy Francisco because he won NUPIC; you should find your own voice because, dammit, that's what I think most people would rather hear.

BTW, it wouldn't take much for a Michigan or UNC team to have a bad season and end up a 12 seed or lower in a bracket. That first-round UNC-Michigan game may happen one day. It's a long shot, but it's possible.  ;)

TSPrunier

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #58 on: August 30, 2009, 11:04:12 PM »
Really?  Figure skating?  Your'e going to try and put "figure skating" on the table?  lol

Anyhow, it still falters in so much as figure skating has very clear style executions and expectations, nto to mention qualified judging to ensure those standards are held.  Ball in net = double flip, not art.

Gymnastics comes to mind as well. And if anyone saw the irrationally high scores given to the Chinese women's (girls) gymnastic team in last year's Olympics, they know not just slam is flawed. Still, if that American didn't fall of the balance beam - her top event - we would be able to ignore the unfair scoring.

But, yes, those sports do have specific criteria for scoring and very little room for subjectivity. In slam, we're asking five people, many of which have never been to a poetry reading before in their life, to give a gut reaction within 10 seconds of hearing a three-minute poem.

On paper, I like that idea. For the sake of all the teams spending weeks or months training, I think there's too much at stake for the national competition. At home, fine. At Nationals, I suggest we look into formalizing it a bit. There's a lot more than a trophy and a check at stake for many of the competitors. Tours, college appearances, film and TV careers, book deals and the like are on the line.

(Still) just sayin'.

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Re: Preselected, qualified judges for NPS?
« Reply #59 on: September 02, 2009, 12:30:42 AM »
John Akpata is an Ottawa poet (it's the capital of Canada, folks!) and he has a poem called "Poetry is as corrupt as figure skating". I'm just sayin'.
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