After talking to my teacher about the experience I had this weekend, she recommended I dedicate this post to sharing it with my fellow bloggers. So I shall. I had been looking up poetry slam events for a while and the only one that seemed to show up in my Google searches was the weekly Ann Arbor Poetry Slam. It seemed legit and like a fun, relaxed slam environment for a rookie slammer. I had told myself for about three weeks “This Sunday is the day I finally compete!” and then, of course, I got too nervous or realized the morning of that I hadn’t spent enough time preparing. Well this Sunday, February ninth, was different. I took out a few poems and picked the one I knew I wanted to use. I spent much more time than I should have memorizing it and simultaneously psyching myself out. Anyway, the slam was only an hour away and I remembered that I would need to read a second poem if I made it to the final round! Quickly I pulled out one that I had sort of had memorized for a while because my friends always liked to hear it. Being pretty sure I wouldn’t need to read that second poem, I skimmed over it once or twice and I was on my way. I walked with two of my fraternity brothers, both eager and supportive, to Silvio’s Pizza on North University here in Ann Arbor. I got to the nice little organic pizza shop and quickly realized that I might be out of my element. The small room was glowing with the essence of “hipness”. Cool, cultured looking people with tattoos and dreadlocks illuminated the restaurant with a rather liberal feel. While nervousness was definitely my main sensation, I quickly felt welcomed and even loved by the people there. The host, Garret, is a dreadlocks sporting young dude who came up to me and my friends to meet us right away. That really calmed me down and made me feel right at home.
Anyway, the clock hit eight and the event got started. With Garret on the mic, five judges were selected from the audience and a couple of open mic acts got everybody in listening mode. The ten of us who were competing then picked numbers from a jar to determine the order in which we would perform. I got eighth. I sat down and tried to study my first poem from my phone without being rude to the other slammers going before me. Seventh came and went and I was up. Trying to force myself to feel confident, I walked up to the mic and read that first poem. I won’t get into details but it was a piece that told a story about hormones and scandals. My brothers had always liked it so I figured it’d be the right one to start with. I got through it without a hitch, though I held my phone at my side just in case I needed a quick refresher. Anyway, I got a nice scatter of laughs throughout the reading (in a good way) and when I finished and sat down, I received surprisingly favorable scores from the judges. They really liked it!
After the last two performers went Garret quickly counted up the points and announced the finalists. I became overtaken by happiness when he read my name. Whether or not I won from then on didn’t matter. I really felt like I could hang with those people up there. Anyway, the final round was five people…maybe six? Well, it was my turn again and I felt a lot more relaxed this time around. That second poem, the one I thought I knew so well, had one minor pause in the reading, but I quickly figured out where I was. I felt more audience appreciation and enjoyment out of this one but, probably because it was the final round, it received slightly lower scores. One more person went after me and I realized I couldn’t win but I really didn’t care. I watched the rest and enjoyed. It came down to a tie breaker slam-off between two great poets and even the tie breaker ended in a tie! They both left champions. I felt like a winner too, as cliche as it sounds.
It was a lot of fun to get up in front of those people and read my poems. Sharing something I like to write with people who know a lot about it, and being judged well for it is something that still leaves me smiling today. After the event Garret came up to me and said he enjoyed my stuff, we hugged, and I was on my way back home. It was a great experience and I plan on going back very soon!