Well, I was writing a lot. Every day for four years or so. Mostly science fiction but occasionally some poetry would slip in there. A friend brought me to a poetry slam and it really blew my mind. The first poetry performance I went to was Shane Koyczan and the first slams I attended were when the IWPS was held here in Vancouver a few years ago. So my mind was pretty blown away by that. After that, started volunteering at the slams and tried out a few pieces on the open mic. I got bolder and then I starting winning a few slams here and there. It was thrilling to read my stuff out to a receptive audience.
Now I'm the international slam master here along with Sean McGarragle, I'm the winner of the last Nerd Slam and Haiku Deathmatch and I've been on Finals Stage. Haven't made a team yet but I tied for the alternate the year before last and I was second or third place from being the IWPS rep last year as well. I'm surprised as hell at how well I'm doing. But that's enough about that.
What I love most about the poetry slam is the time limit. If a poem is horrible, it's only three minutes long. If a poem is great, it works for our MTV, ADHD minds. It compels the poets to get to the point. I'm not saying that all good poems are short poems, I'm mostly saying that poems that I don't like are easier to take if I know they're only going to be three minutes long. I think what scares most people about poetry readings is that they're going to be stuck in a room with someone doing a twenty-minute piece that goes on and on about something that they're not into. And I don't blame them.
For me, the scoring is just a gimmick to give the audience a roman coliseum feeling. Spoken word, to me, has suffered a lot in terms of what's it's popularly conceived to be. Mike Myer's riffing in So I Married An Axe Murderer is most people's sole experience of spoken word and even that was tongue-in-cheek parody of sixties beat poetry. When I ask people if they want to come to a poetry reading, they look for a polite way to say no. When I ask if they want to come to a slam, they are interested.
All I know is that we regularly sell out a nearly two-hundred seat venue every Monday. There hasn't been this many bums in seats for spoken-word poetry since the sixties as far as I know and if this form of personal expression has to be timed and scored to make it more accessible to the new generation, that's fine by me. It's an evolution of the art form. Sure, it's developed it's own cliches as the years have gone by but to me, it's always changing and I look forward to the future.