Today was a day of many things - I shall try to get to the meaty stuff a bit quicker than yesterday's post but I'm vegetarian so excuse me if I get hung up on the side dishes - I promise it's all still nutritious...
We started with an open mic focused on the theme of "Home" which is tough for someone who has been travelling pretty much constantly for the last year and a half and is currently in another country, in another city, with another plane ticket already booked on to another place - but it was nice to take that time to reflect - *Insert your own preferred cliché about home being an idea, a feeling, a person*. But in the good way that writing can, this morning it reminded me that I was feeling, understandably, slightly unsettled and I needed time to acknowledge and address that - I do miss things that represent home to me: my nephews, the sea, the bed I spent three days in store choosing much to the detriment of the battered nerves of the poor sales assistant who accompanied me through that ordeal:
"Yes Barry, I get that a bed is an investment, that it is something I will use every night so I have to really divide that cost by the use I will get out of it over at least a ten year period and when I look at it like that, it's really not very expensive... but the value of everything reduces almost to zero on a long enough timeline, Barry - do you ever divide your time working by the money you earn and figure out exactly how much you are worth, Barry? Do you feel like you are worth more than that Barry? And can I count the nights I lay awake worrying about that as investments too? Why can't you sleep at night, Barry? What keeps you awake? You can have any bed you like so how comes sleep still evades you? Are you happy, Barry? Barry...?"
According to friends who have since returned to the store, Barry doesn't work there anymore... I do have a super comfortable bed now though.
So, anyway, after that, we went on to the next affair of the day - ORIENTATION - with a slight unease of step - not in a "run away, I don't want to be here" style, just a "oooh, existence is a thing, where's mine?" kinda vibe. But... orientation was frickin awesome and not just because they gave out over 350 veggie and vegan burritos (there are 80 slam teams here, competing, and they fed us all!) - though, goodness me, they helped!
We got run through the rules, the who's who, the safe space policy, inclusivity and going forward feedback protocols - which were all handled in the slickest and most comprehensive, yet clear fashion I have ever seen!
Then followed a kind of "welcome to country" ceremony, of sorts, which I was honestly a little apprehensive about but it totally helped to settle me and give a sense of home, place and connection to the land I was on once again, so thank you NPS Denver for knowing what I needed before I did! It's as if they've done this before...
The team and I then popped back to our Air BnB (our current home) for a bit of rehearsal and reset time before this evening's festivities! For those back home wondering, the team are all bonding beautifully - communication lines are open, respectful discourse is occurring and I truly feel we are all bringing the best out of each other, and especially our poetry!
Ok, a bit of meat for all you carnivores...
This evening, we attended the first bouts of these National Poetry Slam finals that we find ourselves at - a chance to scout out the competition and see how one of these things really works! We have been warned that there are some super competitive teams out there that will not even speak to you for you are "the enemy" and tactics are KEY! BUT so far, we, luckily, haven't, yet, been exposed to such things (go figure that complex sentence, grammar nerds!). Yes, so far, everyone has been SUPER friendly and excitable and wonderful! I mean, don't get me wrong - these poets are FIERCE!!! They tear poems from their flesh with bloodied teeth and bare gums, grimacing the words into the air, splattering the audience red and raw. And yes, it can be absolutely exhausting! There is an unrelenting intensity to the poems we have experienced out here. A battering in the register of voice alone, before even mentioning the content. It is an ordeal! But an exhilarating one. And the community! Oh the community! The in-jokes, the reprieves, the intro-jingles, the laughter, the heckling, the supporting! I can say with some certainty, at least by the small experience of it so far, they have it right and again, it made me feel at home. And that is super lucky because if they didn't get it right, I don't know how we would get through the inexorable pounding out of pain from souls through tongues into ears and back to souls again.
I am not ashamed to say that there was an element of intimidation there from watching the slams tonight. The teams are so very polished, so very passionate, so very... well... LOUD! But that is just an element of the feelings felt because whilst it was impressive to see what those teams were bringing, it also highlighted to me how different the pieces we have brought are! And that is rarely a bad thing when it comes to slams!
It can be very easy to conjure up an idea of what a poetry piece to be performed at a slam "should look like" and then find yourself inadvertently emulating that but those are the times you must reassess, seek your home and remember just how important it is to be your own true, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, sometimes powerful, sometimes broken, sometimes baby-skin soft, sometimes brick-fist hard self. It doesn't really matter, so long as you are being true to you! (Damn it... more clichés... I've got to stop writing these blogs at 3am...).
We, Team Slama, are a rag-tag bunch of poets with different perspectives, anxieties, stories, loves, hates, passions and, even, incarnations of belonging and though we have been impressed and inspired by what we have heard here (and we seriously have! - The standard is so HIGH!), it has only served to make us dig deeper into ourselves ready for tomorrow and Thursday, when we do battle, to really GO IN AS US and, win or lose, (to quote the positive hecklers at the slams here) "Remember why we wrote it!" and, in that, we will truly find our way home.
P.S. Make sure you check out yesterday's blog post for details of when we are performing tomorrow and where you can view the live streams!