Evert Eden

Slam Poem: Evert Eden - "Mandela"

Guest post by Evert Eden aka Adam Ash!

This poem was originally called Two Fathers but everyone called it "that Mandela poem”, so now I call it Mandela. It was a useful slam poem, perfectly pitched to disarm black judges. One of my best moments in slam poetry was when I performed it for an audience of over a thousand slam poetry enthusiasts at the Ann Arbor Nationals in 1995, where Deb and Steve Marsh let me read it the evening of the finals, as part of a few pre-show readings.

This was barely a year after Mandela was elected president of South Africa. I remember doing a very relaxed reading, like gentle story telling, as if I were some raconteur, and saving the emotional fireworks for the very end. Well, the crowd went wild, what with Mandela's ascendance to the presidency very fresh in people's minds. Besides, your bourgeois armchair revolutionaries really love to be milked by social justice rhetoric, whether they come from limousine liberal America, Africa or elsewhere. I should know; I'm one of them.

When I walked back to my seat, I saw people in the audience with tears in their eyes, including some cynical, hard-bitten buddies of mine who normally needed a poke in the gonads with a sharp stick to activate their tear ducts.

Another time I read it in Winston-Salem, where a black friend of mine from New York listened and then fled the venue into the night, because it reminded him too much of his own father problems. We remain good friends to this very day, even though we've never shared any confidences about our fathers beyond this poem that apparently stabbed him in the heart as fiercely as it had stabbed me. Sometimes you only find out how powerful your subterranean emotions are by writing them down.

OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.

These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here, where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.

Slammin' - Evert Eden - "I Want to Be a Woman "

Guest post by Evert Eden aka Adam Ash!

I Want to Be a Woman became one of my signature poems in my slam years from 1994 to 1999. You know how it is: you road-test everything you write, then you find that two or three or four or five poems get the highest scores, and sometimes you stick with them for years. People used to complain that Patricia Smith did the same two poems three years running to win the Individual Slam, but hey, those were the ones that scored highest for her, so what was she supposed to do -- perform some other poem and lose?

I Want to Be a Woman was actually going to be the first in a long series of gender, cultural and other reversals, but after I Want to Be a Woman, I only got to write I Want to Be a Black Man. I never got round to I Want to Be a Dog and I Want to Be God and I Want to Be a Murderer and I Want to Be a Republican and I Want to Be a Dictator.

I performed I Want to Be a Woman as my final poem in 1997 to qualify for the individual finals in Connecticut, and managed to score a whole bunch of tens (in the actual finals I screwed it up royally). I remember Michael Brown telling me that my performance was like a levitation, like I was flying or something. I wish I had a video of that performance, because it was my best performance ever of anything I've ever performed ever.

I've seen this with many poets: the one time they hit a transcendent incandescent note. It's an absolute blessing to be there when it happens. In fact, there's nothing greater. I can recall such moments from many poets: Patricia Smith, Marc Smith, Lisa Buscani, Wammo (the one about the bar), Dana Bryant (the one about the heat down south), Maggie Estep (the one about being a lady vampire), DJ Renegade (the one about Miles), Da Boogie Man, Gayle Danley (at least three of her poems, when she burst on the scene in Asheville), Michael Brown, Sheila Donohue, the Superheroes group poem (best group poem ever), Regie Cabico, Jerry Quickley, Glenis Redmond, Beau Sia, Mayda del Valle, Morris Stegosaurus, Reggie Gibson (the one about Hendrix), Cass King, Taylor Mali, Roger Bonair-Agard, Derrick C. Brown (what a funny guy), Shappy Seasholtz (Butterfly, just for starters), Sara Holbrook, Jeffrey McDaniel (the one about the submarine full of midgets), Rachel McKibbens, Lynn Procope, Sarah Jones, Scott Woods, etcetera and on and on into the long good night. Heck, I remember a performance of Beau Sia when he was just making shit up on stage from moment to moment, freestyle-style, and he was on like a boner on a bat, and it was LOL hilarious. And I remember seeing Bob Holman do a whole show of his poems, with a friend on percussion and other instruments, and it was utterly mind-blowing. The memory of those incandescent performances are burned in my mind like laser etchings. When poets hit that spot in your brain, that spot stays lit up forever.

Another good moment with I Want to Be a Woman was when I ran across a student who told me he used it as an audition piece to get into drama school. I walked on a cloud for days after that. It's not that often that you find your work has actually helped someone achieve a dream.

OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.

These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here, where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.

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Slam Poem: Evert Eden - "Jabulani (Ballad for my Brother)"

Guest post by Evert Eden aka Adam Ash!

This is the one poem I've written that can make me cry, because I love my brother. I had to cut it down to make it work as a slam poem, and I don't rightly know where the original poem is. It's a poem that, if I perform it right, is really moving, but it's quite difficult to get it right. I once read this poem, really a praise song to my brother, in South Africa, with my brother in the audience. The next day he told me that listening to the poem was like taking acid. He made me promise never to read the poem in South Africa again, although I was free to perform it anywhere else.

This is what's known as the problem of two writers living together: You're not allowed to steal my life, it's my material, not yours. But then Aldous Huxley wrote brilliantly about his literary crowd in Point Counterpoint,so that even an outsider who just read a few literary magazines would know who the real-life people were on whom all his characters were based. The novel was a classic of its day, because he had stolen everyone's life around him -- and did it brilliantly.

OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.

These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here, where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.

Slam Poem: Evert Eden - "The Hate of Love

Guest post by Evert Eden aka Adam Ash!

This is a poem that started out as a rant against one woman who'd dumped me and a praise song for another with whom I was having the most excellent sex. I read it at a workshop of a tribe of us downtown Nuyorican poets who met every week in 1993-94 under the guidance of Professor Steve Cannon, the eminence gris of downtown New York poetry and art, and Bob Holman, the founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, who back in those years was the slam master at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Cannon and Holman have a truly encyclopedic knowledge of poetry and poets, and their comments were invaluable to all of us. Plus when you heard what other poets were coming up with, it invariably influenced you. A young poet who was much influenced by Rimbaud read a short piece that was pretty wild with the metaphors; this one little poem immediately freed me from my T.S. Eliot fixation into the madness of doing whatever the fuck I wanted with language and metaphor. It became an obsession with me to go as far out as I could with the most extravagant shit I could imagine.

Now when I read this particular little rant, one of the poets there that night picked out a line in the middle of the poem that he thought was very strong. Hmm, I thought. In my rewrite, I moved the line to the end of the poem, and then went back over the whole damn thing to anchor the poem around political and cultural strife. Suddenly everything came together, and the poem actually meant something.

One likes to think of a poet as a creature who writes her thoughts in the very private and splendid isolation of an Emily Dickinson, but some of us find that a poem can be improved immensely if it has to fight for itself in the open, exposed to the public gauntlet of other poets.

OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.

These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here, where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.

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