Monday, February 05, 2007

two voices

Seventy-two poets competed at iWPS last week. Even more performed at the open mics and showcases. I soaked up so many ideas, voices and performance styles I can barely believe, let alone explain it.

Of course I have favourites, and being impulsive I chose them on the first night of preliminaries, then maintained that opinion through the rest of the festival. My favourites weren't in the finals, which probably increased my preference for them. They are fresh and different, and I hope to hear more of their work soon.

Brian Ellis is the iWPS rep from Cambridge Massachusetts. I heard him performing in both nights of preliminary competition. I can remember two of his poems very clearly, Cab 95 and I Wake Up. The first is about a part-time job as a taxi driver. The second is a surreal time-life-travel piece about waking up in various experiences. I have scoured the web for something of his in a sound file or even text, but it doesn't seem to be there. It's too bad, because I can't convey in this post the exquisite beauty of his work. It's haunting and jarring in turns. I can't get this phrase out of my mind: "Ninety-five, are you THERE?"

Evy Gildrie-Voyles is from Madison Wisconsin. I heard her also on both prelim nights, and at the Women's Showcase and Anything Goes Slam. At the Anything Goes, she performed a prop poem about her first kiss. Through the poem she holds a rose. Describing the kiss she eats the petals. The ending is spectacular. The other poems I remember her telling are about putting on makeup and about preferring a lover of substantial girth. Her poetry is funny and intelligent and honest and real. It doesn't seem to be on the web anywhere either.

The other poet who is an old favourite, but sticks out in my mind from this festival is Jack McCarthy from Everett Washington. He's been one of my favourites forever. He's all over the web if you look for him, and lucky for us, he comes to Vancouver quite often. Jack was not an iWPS competitor. He hosted the 21st Century Campfire - a story and song showcase, and competed in the haiku slam.

I hope Brian Ellis and Evy Gildrie-Voyles come back soon. In the sea of poets that was last week, these two stood out for me. It would be unfair to say that there is a formula for winning slam poetry, but there are patterns, and their poems did not conform. They did not rant, shout, shake fists, rail against mainstream politics or religion, brag/complain about sex, or tell their stories of abuse. This also isn't to say that these topics aren't worthy, or that they're used up. But they are well and often-used enough that I have mental categories for them.

Brian and Evie's poems at iWPS were different. Their poems were personal and authentic. They connected with experiences that I understood, but told them from a slightly different angle. Their expression was beautiful and provocative. They stand out. I remember and appreciate them.

As for Jack McCarthy. I like him for all of the same reasons, and especially for his wonderful haikus that gave him winning place in the haiku slam. And for coming to Vancouver and just being Jack.

question: did you have favourites?

mompoet - two scoops with a cherry on top


Cliterati said...

"I Wake Up"~I remember that piece from last summer, seeing him do it in Dallas at the pre-party invitational.Stacie told me he hit that piece.Yay! Much of the rest of his team last year was in that vein. There are very talented folk from Mass.
Evie is one of my favorites, too.I love how unapologetic she is, and how she just tears it up.I especially love her because she looks unassuming, but HA! She has a piece mocking earthy-crunchy momhood and the stupid things people say to pregnant women.I could hear that piece over and over again.I made acquaintances with her a few years ago and hope she can always make it somehow.
Most of my favorites are like this.Sometimes my favorites are those who win--Saturday night I loved, if for no other reason, having seen some of these poets a few times, seeing them really work it, in our element together, is gratifying.
I love Christa Bell because she entrances and sets herself up to perform like an enchantress.Even her inhalations are part of a piece. I like her because nobody sounds like her.
More likely, I'm charmed by the overlooked or the ones who turn out every year to participate or the ones who come in near the bottom of their bouts.Mariangela can talk all day---some people have voices I like to hear. Maze is one of those.I like the Grace of Joaquin's body, the sincerity of Lee Knight Jr.(who I've had so many conversations with in dorrways of hotels, he's become a favorite based on friendship).

I was so happy to meet you. I hope our paths cross again in the not-too-far away.We'd like to meet Nelson eventually.
=)karen g.

mompoet said...

Hey Karen, thank you for visiting my blog and Vancouver. Meeting you and Stacie was one of the best things about iWPS for me. I hope our paths cross again soon. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be an accomplished and well-travelled slam artist, and know a lot of poets like you do, and I'll come on down to feature at your slam. I think that will be when I'm a grandma.
Come back to Vancouver soon. And let's visit on the web whenever we can.

shamanic said...

I had so many favorites, it's hard to sort out. Katie Wirsing's second poem on Friday at Rime, about her grandmother finally addressing a letter to her and her partner, really stands out. Andrea Gibson sending "Blue Blanket" into the stratosphere on finals stage, after slamming a lot of new work in prelims and finals. Those are just two. Evie is wonderful. Brian Ellis is wonderful. Johnmark is wonderful. Ed Mabry, of course.

But even more than the performances, my favorites of IWPS are the moments. Chatting with Buddy Wakefield on Friday evening when someone who had been at the women's reading walked by and told me he'd loved my piece. To be praised in front of a hero was really special for me.

Anyway, lots of stuff. I had a great time, and loved it all. Vancouver is a fantastic city, and your crew did a flawless job. Thanks so much Sue--


Pearl said...

Evy of Madison, Wisconson?

Pearl said...

Jack McCarthy ( found at

mompoet said...

Hey Pearl, thank you for the links. They're good. I was hoping to find some sound files online to listen to the voices of the poets. Alas, nothing so far, unless I missed it.