My name's Dahled; I'm currently SM of The Oakland Slam and I'm running for the EC.
I got my first taste of Slam in DC in the late 90s. I'd already been going to open-mics for years at that point but the energy was entirely different with Slam. You know how it is, you're here, I don't need to explain. I was hooked. This was at the tail end of my time in DC though so I never actually got up the nerve to slam there. When I moved to the Bay, very shortly after getting my bearings, I found the Slam here. This was in 1999. If you've been around that long you may remember what happened that year at NPS - 3 of the 4 finals teams were from the Bay. SF and San Jose tied for the win and Oakland took 3rd. I wasn't in Chicago to witness it firsthand but, WOW, back here the scene exploded. It was amazing energy to be around. SF moved to a huge new venue with a new SM and still had to turn folks away every month; The Berkeley Slam was made official (certified); the Oakland and San Jose slams both picked up steam despite venue issues; other new venues popped up all over the area and so many poets flocked to the scene it was incredible.
My own poetry is largely political in nature and I generally try to challenge listeners preconceived notions with my work as opposed to preaching to the choir. As a "slammer" I attended my first NPS in Seattle as a member of the '01 SF team. Since then I've only missed one Nationals, competing 8 of the next 9 years and volunteering the last couple. I've been on teams representing SF, Berkeley and Oakland (and Fairfield in a slightly Favresq un-retirement). As an organizer I've been the Oakland SM since '05; was on the committee that threw iWPS '09 in Berkeley; am the Tournament Director for the annual New Word Series; have produced several iterations of The Western Regional Poetry Slam and various other limited run shows and one-offs. Slam has been very good to me. The vast majority of my friends were made here. I actually met my wife (Nazelah, who you may know) at a slam and asked her to marry me several years later at a Nat's (ABQ, still my favorite to date). It's primarily because of this positive impact that slam has had on my life that I even consider making the kind of commitment an EC bid entails.
In the 7 years I've been an SM I've maintained a regular presence here on the forums and been a part of or behind several tweaks that we've made to the tournament that is NPS. For the most part the things that I've looked at affecting are directly related to making the competition as "fair" as possible. On the competition: unlike some other folks I do not hate or resent it; I don't love it or hold it above the art but I do recognize it as a big part of what makes our events as popular as they are. Firstly (with the help of Steve Marsh) I designed, advocated for and got passed the current bout rotations for both prelims/finals (which is the same rotation) and semis (different because of the number of teams involved) in subsequent years. I was also one of 10 or so folks that designed and defined the Win & In system (though Angus drove that bus). Not strictly PSi related but germane to the discussion; I've also, with the help of Marc Marcel, created a Google doc database* of venues across the nation to help connect them with touring poets looking for gigs. IMHO this is and example of the kind of service that PSi should provide to it's members but doesn't. Yes there's the slam map and the list of certified venues released prior to NPS (or Win & In) but nowhere is there a single place where you can simply go to find what day a specific slam is on and the contact info for who throws it. If you're planning a tour or run a show check it out. (it's closed but if you click the link it will send me a note and I'll add you)
Looking forward we must...
-First and foremost developing our web presence is of the utmost importance. An official youtube (or vimeo) channel with video from NPS/iWPS/WoWPS is the obvious first step and should be created immediately. Live streams of national events should be the norm. To start with we're looking for exposure, eventually revenue, but first we need to be the place people go to see folks performing poems. When we have the traffic the revenue will come.
-I would like the EC to investigate some combination of the bid process and "grounding" our national events. Having a small, rotating cast of host-cities would allow us to grow the events in a real and measurable way, to identify potential (smaller, local) sponsors and develop ongoing relationships them, and to concentrate on the festival/tournament itself without having to reinvent the promotional wheel every year.
(One possibility I'm particularly fond of is to have a 4 year rotation with 3 regular host cities and an empty slot to be filled via the current bid process or something similar. This would give the organizers that win the bid a period of several years to observe/work with seasoned organizers before taking over the reins on their own and the regular host cities the ability to cycle through resident organizers and/or more easily bring in folks from out of town to work with their existing structure.)
-A lot of us work with kids and marginalized communities (inmates, the disabled, etc); it would be great to promote more of this work happening in host cities during our national events. Specifically I'd like to find a way to foster getting the poets out into the community they're visiting for Nats/iWPS/WoWPS. Moving to a regular or rotating host city(ies) would make this easier but isn't necessary for it to happen.
-I think that we should increase the prize money for first place at NPS to cover (at least) the average cost of fielding a team (including travel & lodging). This would roughly double the prize money we award at Nat's.
I must say that I originally didn't plan to run but was approached separately by 3 former EC members (and several SMs) and urged to. When I then floated the possibility semi-publicly to the community here "urged to" doesn't begin to describe the response. I think that this is watershed moment in our combined story and look forward to helping move PSi to the next level weather I'm elected to the EC or not.