In 2002 I saw Dennis Kim open for The Last Poets in a YMCA on the southside of Chicago. So moved by his performance, I decided poetry was going to be my life's work, dropped out of art school, and immersed myself in spoken word, studying with local luminaries and performing as often as possible. After winning two national youth titles at Brave New Voices, I fell in love with the competitive world of slam and advanced to the adult circuit, where I have since set the record for most individual finals appearances of any poet. Over my career, I've performed at hundreds of universities, organized workshops at schools and festivals, published widely in anthologies and journals considered by Best American, performed on two seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam, earned an interdisciplinary MFA in Poetry and Performance, and I volunteer at The Moth Storyslam, Chicago's largest spoken word show. I've developed one of the most comprehensive understandings of where spoken word floats in our cultural and academic zeitgeist, and have a specific long-term strategy on how to raise our community's cultural significance, which in turn will increase the number of writers and audience members at slams.
Outside of poetry, I am a prominent game theorist, with regional, national, and world titles across various games: I'm a nationally ranked chess player, a high-stakes poker player who performs in the top .1% in a highly competitive field, and my side business as a gaming consultant and private instructor has generated nearly $1M in revenue in four years. High-stakes gaming has taught me many important skills which translate to success as a member of the EC: meticulous attention to detail; painful self-analysis needed to identify leaks; intense focus over prolonged periods; incredible record-keeping; scouring rules systems for exploitative strategies; effective bankroll management and ironclad fiscal responsibility. Additionally, my writing on slam strategy is the most comprehensive and most discussed analysis written on the subject.
I'm running for EC because I want to see the poetry slam movement thrive in the public spotlight. The concept of Poetry, even idiomatically, is equated with momentous beauty and observational thoughtfulness, yet slam poets have a cultural importance somewhere between stand-up comedians and hypnotists. Why is this? The greats of our community are (MacArthur grant winning) geniuses, capable of cathartic, life-changing performances. So why aren't poets doing hour-long specials on Showtime, or performing on the tonight show? Why do we resort to event volunteers and narcoleptics as judges for a tournament like iWPS, which attracts the premiere spoken word talent in the world?
Audiences crave slam. Well-promoted events, from local invitationals to the massive National Poetry Slam, attract huge, sold-out crowds--I am constantly surprised at the exuberant turnout for shows in the farthest nooks of America--yet PSI still throws poorly attended tournaments with regularity. Why is this? What is PSI doing to raise cultural awareness of slam year to year?
As a member of the Poetry Slam EC, my major priority will be a complete renovation of PSI's internet presence, incorporating a hip, re-designed website, high-quality media library of our community's top poets, and most importantly, mandatory streaming video of all PSI semi-finals and finals. The number one mandate in PSI's mission statement is to promote spoken word, and there is no better way to jumpstart that campaign than by creating a massive, free-to-the-public internet presence. Let's learn lessons from more successful spoken word non-profits and tournament sub-cultures and apply them to slam--hint: event streaming, clear presentation, great store products, and nearly unlimited free video go a long way in making something wildly popular.
I'd also like to: consider public radio partnerships, cross-promote with Indiefeed's performance poetry channel, address the dominance of draw order on indie finals stage, consult with organizers to write a host city guidebook, develop better incentives for host cities to throw successful events, increase the full-time staff to allow for superior fund-raising and project support, change the EC voting process to better accomodate host city needs, and develop better educational material for high schools. However, all of these plans take backseat to internet renovation and expansion, which will serve as a promotional springboard for all other projects.
Thank you for your consideration, I will happily field all questions!