Khary Jackson (6is9) - “To the African Americans in California Still Supporting Prop 8” (@ NPS 2012)

"…I understand. The civil rights of strangers can seem abstract, distant, disconnected from home."

Saturdays Are Mlekodays - Episode Three:

NPS and the Three Slam Miracles

Last week, the National Poetry Slam descended on Charlotte, North Carolina, and there was not an episode of Saturdays Are Mlekodays.  No, I wasn’t busy getting my team ready for Finals Stage, or ironing everybody’s shirts in the hotel room so we looked pretty—I was at a wedding in Saint Paul. I missed NPS for the first time since 2006.

Still, here’s my top five list for this year’s tournament (let’s call it THE LIST):

1. People performed poems. This is an obvious one, but we should do our best to take time out of every day to remember how marvelous this fact is. “Every place I’ve been / is on fire with words,” Eireann Lorsung (a poet you should read!) says. You don’t hide a firefly after you’ve caught it. 

2. People listened to poems. Lots of us—myself included—get so wrapped up in the competition, the game, that we don’t listen as hard as we should, and lots of bouts have very few non-poet audience members; while this is regrettable, it does nothing to diminish the beauty of the slam. People cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow because of other people’s words. Cool, right!?

3. People remembered why their poems are special. After months (or years) of performing a given poem, practicing it, running it over and over, it can become routine to us. When this happens, we forget what makes them so special, so powerful and surprising and moving and NEW. Our performances might be sharpened, professional, and good, but they lose that hot and wild magic, for us and for our audiences. NPS is a space that can change all that, remind us what makes our work work its workings, and every time that happens, an angel gets its ribcage.

4. People performed badly. It sucks to spend so much time and energy and money to get to Nationals and then be bad at poems. I know. But it sucks SO much, it forces us to work harder, to be better, to avoid making the same mistake again. 

5. People did different things with poems. We all have our own styles, our own aesthetics, and it can be easy to believe that we’re right and everybody else is wrong. But then you see Slam New Orleans (congrats on the victory, by the way—enjoy that trophy!) drag themselves across their poems like violins and haunt an entire auditorium with their music—or in my case, you see that happen on videos taken by Sam Cook 48 hours later—and you remember that poems can do so many things, and your old world is ruined in the best way, and you lose grasp of syntax while talking about it. 

Let’s remember how dope it is that we organize our lives around poetry. It’s fun to think about the scores, the sex, and the shenanigans of the tournament, but those things probably won’t change our lives for the better.

P.S. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been really into lists recently. As proof of the magic of poetry, let us remember the Three Slam Miracles:

1.The Transfiguration of Saul Williams.

2.Anis Mojgani Defeats the Darkness.

3.Danny Sherrard and the Moth. 

Two more miracles and we’ve got ourselves a rosary.

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    Khary Jackson has a new book, Any Psalm You Want. I got to review it. It’s amazing and completely heartbreaking and I am...
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    I love this poem. I love this man.
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