Are slams a waste of money?
I know this will be unpopular but I feel very strongly about it. In a world where so much of what passes for culture is commodified for the benefit of the few, and exploits the passive many, we should be encouraging cooperation, not competition. I would love to hear others' views about this.
Is grass-roots level poetry important? Absolutely! For lots of reasons, too many to list here, for the individual, the community and the medium. (Write Out Loud is doing a fantastic job in these respects and in fostering the spirit of cross-scene co-operation to which you refer. Well done, sirs!)
Should it therefore be funded for those reasons? Again absolutely – ideally by a broad spectrum of clued-up funders not just those associated with the arts but also health and wellbeing, education in all its guises, regeneration, social inclusion, social cohesion, developers, etc.
Is the competitive format right for everyone? Agreed, no. I’ve seen too many nervous, first-time/last-time poets only once because, rather than go to a supportive, welcoming open mic night or writers’ group, they’ve stood with shaking papers before a slam audience and never recovered from the crushing 4/10 awarded to their deeply personal first-born poem. All the empowerment of expressing what they've got to say and taking the massive step of sharing it with others is lost in this scenario, maybe, tragically never to be recovered. Slam is not just a sport but a blood sport which is not for everyone.
Is “slam-style” poetry to everyone’s taste? Again, I’d concede a no. The predominant in-your-face style which often (not always) does well at slams will never be to everyone’s taste, drawing heavily as it does on stand-up comedy, rap, dub, punk/ranting, and US styles. However, many poets are using these styles, and even mini-slam events, very successfully in schools and other learning environments to engage and empower people by taking them beyond their negative pre-conceptions of “poetry”. This can only be good for the future of the genre.
Is slam a flawed medium? Of course it is. Anything which is judged subjectively always will be and yes, it does hurt even consenting adult, battle-hardened slam combatants to be on the wrong-end of a perceived injustice. (I’d also love to see more done to organise a proper intra and inter-city slam scene as in the US and Canada, but that’s another discussion.)
But, c’mon guys, let’s not forget poetry as entertainment! Something which - now here’s a thought - non-poets would pay to watch! Hopefully more than once! Joyous, hilarious, dazzling, powerful, moving, life affirming, consciousness raising, awe-inspiring, myth-shattering entertainment! Something which, on a good night, elevates our art form to dizzying heights and presents it as so much more than a “cultural cul-de-sac” or a “therapeutic pastime.” Something which, to go back to your point, inspires those present to pick up a pen and/or a mic and to take their writing and performance to the next level.
Does that need to be a slam night? Maybe not.
Could a high-quality guest poet or two have a similar effect? Probably so.
But is a slam a great night out with a higher-than-usual ratio of punters to poets? Very often.
Will they come back? Pay? Spread the word? Book poets? Be inspired themselves? Raise their game?
Should the Arts Council (and others) be funding such a thing? Hell, yeah!
“Slams are a waste of money.” Deal or no deal? No deal!
I didn't mind losing, and if you do, don't enter.
My point is that I learnt a lot watching the top people, and was made more aware of my own shortcomings than at an open mic night, and will hopefully improve.
If slams teaches newcomers surely they are worthwhile, and can live happily alongside friendly open mic nights.
You want new talent don't you.
The one thing that is putting me off doing more poetry is some of the sanctimonious types that frequent these things.
Calm down, you'll get ulcers
And I'm not just saying this because I've been lucky enough to win once or twice (and I do consider luck to be a major factor - it's the poems you choose, the running order you , the predilictions of the audience and/or judges, tactical voting, not fluffing etc etc etc ). I've been in less satisfying ones too... I once came second in one where EVERY audience member had a vote and the winner (who was unintellible) had 30 mates with him. But it got people excited about poetry and that's got to be good.
It's also a chance for there to be some recoginition for more performance-based poets, who are perhaps less likely to win the National Poetry Competition. Again - is that a bad thing?
Having said all that, I'm sad and dissappointed that so many of my personal fave Northwest poets (and there are so many!) didn't make it to the next round of the Radio 4 thing.
At the recent radio 4 slam my fave was Tony Walsh and I think he should have got thru. Its difficult to beat a 10 10 10 9 8 or something similar , which is what the first girl got (the girl who won) , having said that when you have 3 of the judges from the same poetry group voting for someone in that group what fair chance has anyone.
If you take the view that it was not a fair system then would you be forgiven for 'rigging' it, I mean it's all down to how many of the audience are your mates.
For me personally I would ask my mates not to vote but what choice have you know the other side are doing exactly the same, the whole thing becomes a pathetic farce totally divorced from poetry. It becomes a stupid tawdry little pop idol show.
The contact theatre was enjoyable in terms of we could watch the slammers. In terms of a fair result - PATHETIC - shame on those who have to stand by the results.
for something as prestigious as BBC RADIO 4 you would think that they would have realised that inside that theatre the huge clique assembly would surely ensure a victory for thier protegee.
and then people define that as something
wonder how they'll do without a massive barrage of rigged judges in the next round.
then again if I won I would have kept quiet, but I would have not had anyone I know voting for me.
I agree - I thought Tony Walsh should have been up there. and you weren't so bad yourself!
I agree performing in slams keeps you regular !
better than senna
"itinerant hop-pickers"?) What I meant to say is that slams are great opportunities to hear great poems, by great poets, in great venues, in the company of great audiences. As a flippant aside, and I don't hold with debasing the medium, no sirree, I most enjoyed the Liverpool Slam, long as it was,possibly because a) I was imbued with a sense of omnipotence, being a judge, b) I wasn't driving so I enjoyed a small libation,c) it had a great buzz (possibly because of b).
As for the Wigan Slam I have heard no-one dispute Peter Crompton's success, and I found it enjoyable because a) it was short b) it attracted a good range of new readers, so it was fresh and uncynical.The Contact Slam is obviously a division higher with different expectations. Now as a venue I'd prefer not to have to sit in rows, drinking out of plastic glasses, but the audience is not there to enjoy itself. It's there to champion its causes, it's there to back its runners, and why not? Pesonally thought that Ross Sutherland was a) the best performer b) the cleverest poet, but he was in the company of some kick-ass professionals. As someone said earlier in this discussion (I think) "It's poetry Jim, but not as we know it."
No they're not, they're the opportunity to see a lot of pathetic idiots falling over themselves to ingratiate themselves with a bunch of "judges" who know nothing about poetry (but "like to have a laugh") and turn themselves into circus clowns.
"Slams" are a dreadful American invasion into this country, like Macdonald's and Subway, and the only thing they do is make poets' minds obese.
If you want to know about poetry, pick up a book of it once in a while.
I also love to hear good poetry read out or performed well.
I have had my poems published in a range of respected poetry magazines.
I also perform my poetry at open floors and (heaven forfend!) at slams.
Some poems work better on the page, some prefer to be read out. Some work both ways.
Many - let's go mad and say 'most' - people neither read poetry nor attend readings. If they did, many of them would enjoy it.
Those people can sometimes be persuaded to go to a slam, where they will usually get a range of styles and content in tasty morsels to whet their appetites. It is possible to lure unsuspecting punters in under the guise of 'entertainment.'
In my experience of attending slams across the region and beyond, the poems performed are, yes, often funny, or raps or rhymefests (all of which I enjoy as a further adventure into language) but they can also be evocative, challenging, deeply moving. I can remember individual performances where you could have heard a pin drop, when the words and the feeling lingered with you, came home with you, sat all night scratching at the door.
On behalf of all of those who have, it seems, tarnished the aloof and exclusive muse of poetry by choosing to enjoy the odd slam, can I just apologise? What a shame that we should cause such offence to Mr Wailing's delicate sensibilities.
Or should I be chiding the said gentleman for the use of such unimaginative and sweeping generalisations, branding all of us - many of whom he has neither seen nor read - as 'pathetic idiots' and 'circus clowns.'
That isn't poetry, Steve, and it isn't nice.
They're a bair-pit, a wrestling match, they're a contact sport. But they're not art.
Poets shouldn't be competing with one another, not in that way. It's just another manifestation of capitalism, to get poets competing with one another for the short attention span of an audience hyped up on alcohol, rather than actually producing something beautiful that doesn't buy into the system.
It sells itself as radical, but like all those "left-wing" poets who think you should still rhyme like that arch-imperialist Kipling, it's nothing of the sort. It's reactionary. It doesn't attack the system, it props it up.
I know a lot of performance poets like to think of themselves as radical, left-wing, anti-establishment types. But it's no better than a stand-up comedian saying "Thatcher" to get a laugh in the '80's.
Art should produce beauty, not ugliness. Yes, ugliness can be beautiful if you transform it. But if all you're doing is trying to get votes off an audience, what exactly are you doing it for? To impress your mates, bolster your self-esteem; or do you actually have anything to say? If you've anything to say, why do you do it to people who are too busy getting drunk and thinking of clever heckles to listen?
Slams empty poetry of any content or meaning.
By the rules of your argument one could say that those 'left wing' poets who think you should still write prose to promulgate an opinion are like the arch-fascist Hitler... etc etc
No and no.
I guess it's down to the old Marxist saw that form is reactionary, content is revolutionary. These days most people will read or listen to piece for its content and its intent and its congruence. They will not, on hearing a rhyme, automatically consign the rest to the reactionary dump bin.
I imagine that William Blake, Francois Villon, the writers of various traditional folk ballads and music hall songs, John Clare, Marie the Handloom Weaver, Robbie Burns, Lorca, Mandlestam, Nelly Sachs, Wole Soyinka and Arthur Rimbaud (to name but a random few) would be extremely surprised to find themselves enrolled as arch-imperialists simply because they used rhyme.
Or are you saying that rhyme was corrupted backwards and forwards in time through the creative activity of one man?
And poetry slams -- not dissimilar from contemporary accounts of Shakespeare's plays being staged at the Globe. Ah, but you have said 'history be blowed.' I guess 'blowed history' would also knock out Kipling and so remove any imagined implicit political baggage from rhyme.
Very radical that...
Oh, and Shakespeare's plays aren't very big on rhyme... blank verse mostly, except for the ends of the soliliques. He was also a master of enjambment, unlike Marlowe's thumping end-stopped lines.
what a joker, what a wag
pity there is not the larnin behind it.
So, are Slams a waste of money?
That the question is asked at all smacks a little of mealy-mouthedness. Slams are what Slams are, and they are different for every group: different quality, different intent, different result....All this generalising is wearying.
And all this Commenting is a little like ******* in the wind: self-gloryfying - in the sense of dogs and lamp posts?
But in the 21st century, it's just a bad jingle-jangle in the ear. Music-hall. Don't dilly dally on the way... and have a gimmick. Dress up like a clown, wear a big hat. That way no-one will notice you've nothing to say.
Which pretty much sums up the average slam.
And there's more than one way of selling your work. You could turn it into a book, so people could go away and read it, for instance. That way you wouldn't have to deal with drunks.
But that requires thinking...
Do you like music less if you are drunk?
I enjoy writing poetry, I write it as a catharsis. I enjoy reading poetry to my friends, wether they are sober or drunk. They enjoy it when words rythme. The enjoy it when they dont.
However, it can be fun to use rythme in many ways and I think if you have an intelligent or innetive approach to rythme then it is a very useful tool indeed. I actually find great enjoyment in trying to link rythme in my poems, I have written poems without and find I lose a vital element when the poem is performed.
If the defintion of poetry has to be that of perfectly constructed theoretical textbook pices, devoid of rythme (as though it were a disease) then I am happy to say I am not a poet and perhaps I become a court jester, a whore to the 3 minute attention span of my drunken friends.
In which case entertainment seems futile in the eyes of pure prose and sonnet (and other words I am learning)
I think what is important is this : Are we being creative? Are we using words ? Are we trying to construct images in the minds of the audience ? Are we thinking and putting effort into our work ? (as opposed to some lazy rap)
Yes Yes Yes for most performers I see this is true.
Poetry cannot claim to have the monopoly on the mundane or the purists. They do not own the word 'poetry' by the very definition of language it evolves and no word is immune from re-interpretation, slams are relatively new and they have embraced 'poetry' as the medium, this is inescapable.
I can read very serious poems about my fear of nuclear anhilation, or I could watch someone talk about a hand job in a cinema, I dont mind as long as its real.
I'm not interested in pompous 'holier than thou' shakespearian throwbacks, or backstreet hacks with no spine, poetry is neither mine nor thiers to monopolise.
I do think that lazy rythme slams are no better than just limericks, I believe we should all put effort into our work and strive to improve
Most of all though to express ourselves and share it in a way that others drunk or sober can enjoy and benefit from in a positive way.
No but I appreciate it less. I miss all the subtleties. It's just a pleasant/unpleasant noise in the ear. In fact, if I'm drunk I'm not actually listening to the music at all, I'm just listening to the bottle. Which might be fine & dandy at times, but not if I'm actually wanting to listen to music. Or hear poetry: I want to experience the poem, not just hear it as a pleasant diversion.
Maybe I take it all too seriously; maybe I should chill out and just enjoy the drift of words; but I'm the same with music: too much bland indie pop and I want to switch off. It's too expected, too obvious.
I've seen some great performances by innovative writers: Micheal Haslam at Cambridge, Geraldine Monk at Huddersfield, Alan Fisher & Scott Thurston in the Attic, Manchester. A film of Robert Creeley reading. Philip Davenport chinese-whispering a poem in Salford. When I see something like that, I feel like the top of my head has been lifted off.
Some bloke talking about the size of his todger just seems boring to me.
'You listening to me?' Hic.
Well I've never heard that in a pub or at a gig, are we talking about the same thing here?
As for publishing, if you have a following, DIY is far more lucrative than
a publisher who pays you 7% royalty and charges you most of the cover price for books to sell at your gigs!
Which face? Keegan with a blue rinse methinks.
<Deleted User> (4744)
Perhaps I need to get out more. So is a "slam" something akin to a rap "battle" where the raps do their best to insult one another in as graphic a way as possible? ... or something else. That's the tone I get from this thread.
Shelly D recently came to the Island and joined our sedate Poetry & Pints night. I hope next meeting she's back to stir it up some more.
Are slams a waste of money? Not a clue.... but I think I better turn up to one and see what the fuss is about. Who's paying the boat ticket?
Slams are a kind of fast poetry, like fast food. Not surprising then that it originates in the Land of Supersize Me. Sure it's fun, if you like to be shouted at constantly.
I find slams overly agressive, over-competitive and shallow. So I shan't be going to one any time soon. I'd like to start a new movement for Slow Poetry, not Fast Poetry.
I like it as an idea, though it may already have been done. Can't get funding for something that has been successful, you see. So 'last year'!
I mean, funding's why we do it, innit?
'Slow' poetry? Slow, poetry! Slow poetry. Hmm.
Slow poetry is the new slam? Good angle, that. The Arts Council might go for it if we insist it is aimed at 'excellence' among the younger demographic, refugees and asylum inmates (sorry, seekers). Hey there, Georgie Girl.. a little bit...
Think of the merchandising possibilities...
Slow poetry to help slow down the world!
There is a movement for "slow food," y'know...
Think of the health benefits: slow poetry for slow food.
Slow food for the soul...
<Deleted User> (4744)
The older we get the more contemplative we become. Leave the vitriol and bile spitting to the younger generation who can still get worked up without a cup of tea in a morning.
Leave it to them to Slam!
We'll have a Slow Poetry movement in our doteage. So what's wrong with that. Oh, and before you start, age is nothing to do with how many birthdays you've had. It's a state of mind. I don't plan on growing up anytime soon.
Waste of money? ... I doubt it. Better they chew up a mike than catch a John or a Harry on a corner and beat their frustrations out with a fist. I think it's all good .... they'll mellow eventually and join the slow soul train of poetry.
In Wigan we have a 'slow poetry' event at Caffe Nero (Tuesday 29th July).
We also have the normal Tudor night where you do get more theatrical and shouty-type poetry along with quieter slower poetry and so this night is a good mix (next one Thursday 14th August).
Then there is the NXNW Festival Slam (Monday 28th July at the Tudor, Wigan).
I read somewhere that slams are a good way of challenging the authority of anyone who claims absolute power of literary value and credibility. Every poet is judged accordingly. The audience become more involved with the poetry on show.
Ok, some may not like them, but I believe that they do attract good numbers to poetry events and if run in the right spirit, which does seem to happen in Wigan, then they can be fun for those competing and all those watching.
Register for the NXNW slam online by clicking on this link: http://tinyurl.com/45eskt
[Do you see what I did there with those little plugs...cheeky]
I am sure there is some that are first rate and I have being to a load off brilliant open mike poetry nights (I co host one myself) but I have seen it myself as with bad writing groups and bad writing courses at university where a bad one can put people writing for good. I remember at university I had one poor lecturer who was that unhelpful in the class we were in I know for a fact he put off about half the class from writing poetry again.
In a good environment, it can really help any kind of good event, but certainly I don't think i will be doing a slam again
I think its a big shame how few slams there are in the UK.
Think about it, they are a fun way to push people into writing, performing and listening to poetry.
I've been to open-mic nights where people talk over the performers and its actually quite awkward to witness... but I've been to slams where the whole crowd are excitedly listening, wondering who is going to win.
I've not even gotten into the excitement of entering one yet...
I'll stop there, I'll just say, I think slams are the future of poetry :)
I think they are a fun to watch/perform in though and by and large the quality of poetry is higher than on an ordinary poetry night.
Perhaps if they reduced the prize money you would get less of the semi professional poets going and more of the good amateurs having success. There are definitely poets out there who only seem to turn up to win the money. For me it is much more about the buzz of being there. I doubt I'll ever come in the running but if I did, it would be about the prestige of the title, not the money.
You do seem to get some poets who turn up just for the money like Isobel said.. Perhaps it should be focused on the presitage more than the money indeed.. x