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.
Hopefully, someday these performances will become part of Poetry Slam Incorporated series of National Poetry Slam Videos.
Let them know there’s interest!