thoughts on slam
Ain’t it the truth.
Last night I went to a reading at the vermillion bar and art gallery. A 60 something bukowski-alike opened the reading. which, necessarily, was hilarious.
Then Hugo House’s resident slam artist and coordinator of (what seems like to me) all things…performed. I am so torn on slam. Part of me hates it. But none of me can escape its hypnosis when caught by a performance. likely by accident. Of course, there are those slam artists who rely too heavily on NOISE and crescendo and facial expressions and charisma…but Sara Brickman (mentioned above) doesn’t go for the obvious. No cheap politics. Does not aim for the throat. Her pieces are purposeful. You could unwravel an agenda if you REALLY TRIED. But describing her AGENDA would be besides the point, and totally difficult. Regardless, she wins you over. Wins over your heart. and maybe thats the point?
I bought her chapbook last night…and while the pieces don’t stand with as much strength stuck upon the page (look a bit ramshackle and don’t vibrate with the same vitality) they still 100% work.
Her images are incredible. Her writing is beautiful. The narratives are compelling. They are less INTERESTING… less complex…without her performance, but otherwise, quality pieces of writing.
Maybe I am just too spoiled by the complicated rhetorical structures of Louise Gluck. I don’t know.
But I would be sad if the world didn’t contain voices like Sara’s. I am not sure where this leaves me on the topic of SLAM.
but enough of my rambling. read the interview:
Sara’s poetry is visually rich and crackles with energy, marrying personal confessions with punchy off-beat images for maximum impact. She’s got a certain anarchist book fair brand of charisma with which she has represented the youth slam community of Ann Arbor and Hampshire College as well as gracing stages around Seattle and beyond. Here, Sara talks about the grueling elements of NaPoWriMo, the poem-carving process and the connections between “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Paradise Lost.”
Graham Isaac: Hi Sara. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. First off, what are you currently working on?
Sara Brickman: I’m undertaking the mad 30/30 challenge. I’m writing a poem a day for the month of April and posting them to my Facebook page and my Web site for friends to comment on, which is both thrilling and terrifying. Releasing unfinished work into the world is frightening for me, but being forced to write a new poem every day is pushing me as a writer in ways I never thought possible. I’m also polishing a manuscript of poems that I’ll hopefully be submitting to presses within the next few months.
GI: How’d you get into poetry? Was there an epiphany moment, or was it a gradual process? Or both?
SB: I remember writing a poem in fifth grade that was a free verse retelling of the Little Red Riding story. I had just discovered that poems didn’t have to rhyme and I was going to stage a poetic rebellion in the classroom. The wolf had a lot of complex ideas about the nature of evil; think Lucifer in “Paradise Lost.” And there was some line about Red Riding Hoods’ cloak “protecting her from the wild knives of his teeth.” Mr. Stewart told me it had no rhythm and made me re-write the assignment.
Growing up I was always a voracious reader, dedicated diarist, dabbler in poetry and a huge theater geek. When I was 15, my brother got involved with the Volume Youth Poetry Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I went with my parents to see him compete in a poetry slam at our high school, and that night I went home and stayed up till 1 a.m. writing poems. All these interests coalesced for me in spoken word. I said, “I want to do THAT.”
GI: It’s been said that some writers are “crafters,’ starting with an idea and building it into a finished work and others are “carvers”—they write a bunch and through a process of editing and adding end up with something they like. Do you subscribe to this theory, and if so, which description better fits your writing process?
SB: I think for most writers a combination of both crafting and carving is necessary. I would say I’m generally much more of a carver. I usually start with a single line that comes into my brain unbidden and write from that. I rarely know what a poem is going to be when I begin, and I find that my most successful writing usually surprises me when I’m done. I think poems tell us what they need, what they want to be. Our job as authors is nourishing their growth, even if they don’t grow the way we expect.
GI: What sort of venues are your favorite to perform?
SB: Living rooms full of friends and strangers. Historic theaters. Community performance spaces (like the Fremont Abbey!). Independent bookstores. Bars where everyone is just drunk enough that they’re listening really, really hard.
GI: You’re an adult mentor for Youth Speaks Seattle. What are some of the best parts about working with youth? The most challenging?
SB: I don’t get the chance to help out at Youth Speaks as much I’d like, but am always astonished at the electricity in young poets. Their verve and willingness to push themselves and others’ boundaries keeps my brain whirring and fresh. One of the hardest parts of being an effective teacher is knowing when a student needs an idea generator and when to encourage shaping and craft. For most poets, regardless of age, hearing critique can be painful, so knowing how to approach each student as an individual and when to step back and let them wrestle with the work on their own is a constant learning process for me. The reward is watching them come out of this wrestling triumphantly holding a poem.
GI: Finally, what’s the best thing about Seattle’s Poetry Community? And the worst?
SB: I wish there were more communication between the spoken word community and the academic literary community. If we hope to share our work with folks outside of literary circles, we should welcome each others work, attend each others readings and share ideas!