Poetry slam: March 27th! Tonight at the Museum of Modern Art theater in San Francisco nearly twenty young poets stood on the stage and gave us their poems. Some spoke with ferocity. They were rewarded with high scores. All were brave just to be there, never mind that they were 15, 16, 18 years old, pouring out stories of injustice, angst, and pain. Their stories mirrored life experience of audience members, most of whom roared their support. I liked Carmela Gaspar, a diminutive Asian student who had memorized her long and rapid in-front-of-the-mirror poem with fast zingers like …palid be / like a malady… that got me wishing I had the words to that poem in front of me. She didn’t hard drive it with lots of four letter words or end the poem with SHIT! like the favorite slam-girl Ebony Donnley, who looked like a young Queen Latifa. Emcee Chinaka Hodge had a good relaxed style and kept the feel-good atmosphere going. There were some powerful male poets like Mic Turner, and Travis Eglip, but it was the young women that held my attention.
Annelyse Gelman, a white girl from “the other side of the Caldecott,” had style (both Rachel and I liked her grey coat) and confidence. I started scribbling her phrases...smiling is just a special way to wince… and angst is unconditional. I would have given her a few 10’s in her score, if I were one of the judges. These five judges seemed to go for power in presentation, slam-skill, and the degree of tragedy described. The points started at 9.1 and went to 10 and above. Every poet had a score of at least 9.1. I liked that. Lots of applause and cheers. Most poets were in the high 9’s.
- Mannie Rizvi (Mannie, how do I find you?)
Then there was Mannie Rizvi, my favorite poet of the evening. She is an East Bay slammer who drove home the complex and brutal treatment of women in Pakistani culture. She began with Our hands are always shaking…brown girls covered in black cloth…this is a noise the world’s chosen not to hear. When I shook her hand to thank her for the good work at intermission, she seemed to be quivering with that energy that comes to poets who are tuned into something bigger, much bigger than they are. An important message.
Youth Speaks is getting much attention nationally. It is 13 years old. I believe I went to one of the first slams, outdoors at Fort Mason years ago. April 11th the FINALS are at The Opera House!
And April 5th at 11:00PM HBO is presenting Brave New Voices Slam. Check it out. This is the voice of the future, y’all.