Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fresh from The Fridge: New View of Spoken Word

July 30, 2013, the Steiny Road Poet went to The Fridge for an evening of spoken word sponsored by the Beltway Slam Team. This year’s team includes: Clint Smith, Natalie Illum, Pages Matam, Adele Hampton and Robalu Gibson. Sarah Lawson is their slam master. The evening was unique not only for the Steiny Poet who had not been to a slam in long time but also to the audience because it was a No Rules Night, a first for the Beltway Slam Team at The Fridge.

Typically the core spoken word rules are:
   Each poet performs his or her own work.
   No props.
   No costumes.
   No musical accompaniment or musical instruments.
   Time limit is three minutes.
   Judges must not know the contestants and may not compete.

For the No Rules event, there were performances with live musical accompaniment, a little singing, a little dance/movement, a bit of costuming, some improvisation. And a couple of the judges participated in the slam and clearly knew and reacted to their favorite slammers.

All of the performers provided interesting content though not everyone was in the competitive mode. There were several slammers who read from their computer or smart phone screens without making much eye contact with the audience. The bottom line was there were no performances that would put an audience member to sleep and nothing that was a throw away. People were speaking about issues that concerned them deeply without going over the edge.

Among the Steiny Poet’s favorite pieces was a piece from an award-winning English performer about bees. The number included musical accompaniment and some sprechtstimmer. Adele Hampton did a heart-tugging piece about her mother who was beaten by her father (one assumes her mom and dad). Pages Matam, Adele Hampton, and Clint Smith performed a clever piece that dealt with side effects. Pages Matam and Robalu Gibson did a several-part piece about racism that was partly set back in Josephine Baker’s time in Paris that was riveting.

Even the Steiny Poet got up on stage to participate and could feel and experience an intense engagement from the audience. People in the audience snapped their fingers to say we are supporting you. They responded in unison as a reaction to certain facts. Take this exchange: Slam Master: It only costs one dollar! Audience: Only one dollar? They clapped thunderously. It’s very much like an AA session where the vulnerable are intensely supported by the community of addicts. In any case, the Steiny Poet was put back in touch with a 1975 poetry performance she did with a belly dancer and sitar player in a small shopping mall where the audience engagement was 100 percent.

Should the Steiny Poet say that 98% of audience members were under the age of 30 and you know, Dear Reader, that the Steiny Poet is une femme d’un certain âge. And there were 50 people at least for a beautiful July night and everyone paid $5 entrance fee, which goes for renting The Fridge and helping the Slam Team get to national competitions. More about them on their Facebook pageNow this is a poetry community worthy of knowing and supporting.