Posted by Paul Devlin:
Crystal Williams performed “In Search of Aunt Jemima” at the semi-finals of the 1995 National Poetry Slam in Ann Arbor, MI. She received the only perfect 30 of the event (back before the phenomenon of score inflation in poetry slams).
I had recently made the pilot Slammin’ at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in New York. Very excited about slam poetry, I decided to expand my interest and to introduce myself to the National Poetry Slam organizers, with the idea of making a TV series.
In Ann Arbor, I met slam founder Marc Smith and slammaster Steve Marsh for the first time. They were very suspicious of me! Slammin’ was slick and MTV-like and they were concerned about someone from New York sweeping in and co-opting their movement.
After some negotiation, they allowed me to shoot the event. But only under the condition that I give all the tapes back to the organizers. For me it was most important to get the event documented, so I agreed.
I hired a crew to shoot multi-camera coverage of the semi-finals and finals at the venerable Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor (a homecoming for me – I went to undergrad at University of Michigan.) I also interviewed many poets who went on to become slam celebrities. Eventually, I gained Marc Smith’s trust and went on to make SlamNation.
So there is great material from the 1995 Nationals – as this video demonstrates – but none of it has ever been released. Until now.