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