David Mills performs his poem “Thomas’ Promises” from Paul Devlin’s TV pilot Slammin’, the pre-cursor to his movie SlamNation.
Posted by Paul Devlin:
Slam Poetry melds the art of writing and the art of performance in the context of a good old fashion brawl. SlamNation is the seminal film of this literary movement.
There I met the movement’s founder Marc Smith. Man, did he give me the evil eye! He did not trust television people and he was very wary of someone appropriating and perverting the great thing that he had started. He also did not like the fact that Slammin’ was centered in New York, a place he was naturally suspicious of, being from Chicago.
So he and poets Gary Glazner and Allan Wolf sat me down, and explained their vision of where slam poetry should go and their reservations about putting it on television. I listened carefully and their interest in maintaining the integrity of the movement and keeping it inclusive to represent the diversity of slam poetry across the entire country had resonance. This meeting is the seed that germinated into SlamNation. Eventually I became good friends with all of them and part of the community myself.
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.
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.