10 Years – Part 1

Posted: January 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

On January 13th, 2006 – 10 years ago today – my life changed.

I didn’t realize it at the time, which is how many major things happen, I suppose.

Less than a week before, Ruthanne told me she had read an article about a poetry show that she wanted to check out. A friend and co-worker (Nadine Thornhill) was also going to go.

I agreed to go. I had no specific interest in the show, but she was interested so I was willing.

The event was at a (now long gone) bar on Bank called the Gap of Dunloe. The show was called Capital Slam.

There was a good crowd but we got there early enough to get a table near the front. A lot of people buzzing about were ones I would get to know quite well, many of them as friends, but at the time, I had no idea.

I don’t know who was working the door, but it wasn’t Danielle Gregoire. It was the one show she missed in the first few years of the shows existence. Lisa Slater came by the table with white boards and Nadine quickly jumped at the chance to be a judge.

Then the poetry started.

I don’t remember the names of everyone I heard that night. I do know that the slam was won by Jim Thomas. Nathanael Larochette (later known as Sir Realist), made his slam debut. The feature was a young woman with a guitar… but I don’t recall her name. (The SECOND CapSlam I attended featured Magpie Ulysses.)

I DO remember being annoyed about something the host said on stage. It wasn’t anything important but it prompted me to write my first spoken word poem. (It was terrible, but hey, it led to a next one… and then a next one…)

On the way out we made a mental note to attend the next show we heard plugged on stage – it was a coffee house show hosted by Jessica Ruano and featured Kevin Matthews.

The other thing I did on the way out was pick up a copy of their CD – Live at Capital Slam 2005.

I listened to that CD a lot. I recognized the name Steve Sauve as the scorekeeper at that first show, and his 3-part poem on the album changed my perception of poetry. The Kevin Matthews pieces (The Love Song of Roy G. Biv and Bush Voter), made me want to be one of these amazing artists who opened their hearts, minds, and mouths and let beauty (even ugly beauty) pour out.

I wanted this in a way I hadn’t wanted something in quite some time. It wasn’t about winning or being a champion or any of that. I just wanted to create and share. This gave me an avenue of expression that I didn’t know existed before then.

So I started writing. And performing. And sharing. And I haven’t stopped.

Ten years.

And counting.

The One For My Dad

Posted: January 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

I just reached this poem in my book. I am not going to post it written out, because that doesn’t feel right. This video feels right.

I haven’t posted a poem in a while.

This one cakes from the Duncameron project I started a long while back and never really got anywhere with. This poem is one of the reasons.

I liked the first two poems I wrote. Then I didn’t really like the next two poems.


January, 2013

So, I play poker and sometimes luck feel tangible, either good or bad. This is in answer to that.

Breaks and Beats – The Duncameron 3

Some people get all the breaks
Cruising through life
With a personal Lady Luck
Complete with a 4-leaf clover
And the feet of any number
OF much less lucky rabbits.
Morrissey said, “We hate it when
Our friends become successful.”
But I think our eyes go green
When we think success
Came too easy –
Like we would turn down
A magic ride a la 6/49
Or that lunch counter
Casting agent.

Some people take the deal,
Player ht stable,
Slide chips, stack and shuffle
But alway seem to eat that
2-out river card that takes
Your 8 to 1 odds and teaches
You what a bad beat really means.

When your life feels like it
Could be permanently emblazoned
With the ridiculous
Which provides guilt
Instead of perspective
And taking ownership
Is a dead-weight feather
dropping on your already
Lightning-jagged spine
You have to remember that
Luck implies intent
And the universe
doesn’t care whether
You succeed or not.

We have to look out for
Each other,
Because that’s all
We’ve got.

This is the latest in the Rewriting the Rulebook project.


We have gone through all of the existing tournament rules as written, but there are other rules, incorporated through precedent and/or tradition that also affect the way the tournament is run.


Today I want to start off my talking about something that I know has a wide range of opinions and feelings associated with it.


The Wild Card team / Last Chance Slam. (It is named at the whims of the festival organizers at times.)


First, let me explain what I am talking about.


A slam is held on the first night of the festival where the top 4 (or 5) poets from the slam form a new team and it is entered alongside the other teams sent from individual slam scenes.


This has taken a variety of forms over the years.


The first time this was done was in 2008. There was an odd number of teams (11, I think) and an extra team was needed to even that up. A slam was held that was mostly filled with the alts from the various teams entered.


In 2009 it was held again. This time there were a number of top poets who had previously decided to not be on teams (with one notable exception, which I am not going into here), who decided to go out for the team. They made it to the Finals that year.


In 2010 there were 15 teams registered so a slam was held to create that team. This time there were so many people who wanted in, we held an advance lottery give spots in the event. (That has not been needed since.)
In 2012 there was a last minute slam created when one team that was expected to arrive did not. In 2015 there was a slam scheduled the day before most teams arrived, to make up the even number.

Some people love the Wild Card idea. Some people don’t.


Here is the current rules, previously unwritten: When all teams have registered, if there will be an odd number of teams a Last Chance Slam will be held to create a Wild Card team. Once formed, that team will be treated like any other team in the festival, with one exception. Any poems performed during the Last Chance Slam cannot be performed during the main competition that year.

That last rule was waived this year because nobody told the competitors that before they slammed.


Evening up the teams matters a lot. Scheduling an even with an odd number of teams means that at some point there needs to be prelim bouts that are a different size that others. That doesn’t create fair competition. The Wild Card team fixes that.

As I said earlier, some people love the Wild Card concept and think that we should include it every year. (There are various ideas about how to deal with the ‘odd number’ problem if the Wild Card team would CREATE an odd number.)

I am not one of those people.


I think of the Wild Card team as a fix to a problem, but not something that is desirable. I have always thought that the Wild Card team is a little unfair and quite a bit insulting to the poets on teams who had to work incredibly hard to get to where they are.

Let’s look at a ‘standard’ slam. At CapSlam, a poet has to have slammed at least 3 times during the season to qualify for our semi-finals. Then they need to compete against 7 other poets for the right to go to the finals. If they make it to the finals they compete against 7 other poets for the right to represent CapSlam at CFSW.

Once on the team those pets work together all summer, raising money and working on their poems as a team. This is five months of dedication before they have the opportunity to share their work with the National Community. This is a year of supporting the community they are representing. Coming out to shows and giving back to the community that is sponsoring them.

Or they can sign up for a Last Chance Slam, finish in the top 4 or 5 once, and skip the whole process.

That doesn’t sit well with me.

I remember IzREAL saying that we would see how many people still like the Wild Card idea if they win a championship. Some people still would, I am sure.

It does not sit well with me. At all.

So, my proposal is to take the current unwritten rule and put it in the actual rules, but otherwise don’t change it.

I know there will be other opinions about this one, so have at it.:)

This is the latest installment in the Rewriting the Rulebook Project.


There isn’t much to discuss here as we wrap up the remaining rules as written.  (Though there is some clean up needed, certainly.)

Please note that the two year moratorium on repeating poems was passed at an AGM, so would be tough to change at this point. (I mean, it could be changed, but not until next year.)

If you want to talk about it, please feel free!

o) Slam hosts will conduct themselves as neutrally as possible at all times during bouts.

p) Any disagreements, complaints or protests from a bout will be handled by the Slammaster. (The Slammaster may choose to strike a grievance committee at their discretion.)


  1. The National Slammaster will also enforce the following rules regarding the use of poetry from previous national team slam championship competitions:

a) No artist may perform a poem in the current competition that they used in previous national team slam championship competitions from the preceding two years at CFSW. This includes preliminary bouts, Semi-Finals and Finals but not Last Chance Slams, sacrificial poems, Underground Slams or any other side events. (Poems from Last Chance Slams are not allowed as part of the competition in the same year they are performed.)

b) Any disagreements, complaints or protests arising from the enforcement of these provisions will be handled by the Slammaster.

This brings us to the end of the current, written rules. I will be still making more posts as we go into the unwritten rules portion of the show.

Next up, I will open up discussion on the Wild Card / Last Chance team concept. It is an area that has a wide variety of opinions so it needs a good spot to discuss them.

What other rules topics that aren’t otherwise covered could use a section?

10 Years (Next year)

Posted: November 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am jumping the gun a little here but I gathered some information by digging through my old Live Journal.


I am posting it here so I can find it when the time comes.

The first slam I attended:

Capital Slam, Gap of Dunloe, Jan. 13th, 2006 – Jim Thomas won.

The first time I performed a poem in public:

Dusty Owl, Swizzle’s, July 16th, 2006 – ‘Jump Rope’ for the Object of Desire competition. (I won.)

The first time I slammed:

Capital Slam, The Thirsty Scholar, September 14th, 2006 – ‘Typecast’ (and ‘Air’ in Round 2). I came 5th. (Nathanael Larochette won)

(oh, and CFSW 2016 will be my 10th of those as well…)

This is the latest post in the Rewriting the Rulebook project.

We have a bunch of sections here which are not exactly controversial.

j) Under no circumstances may less than four eligible slam team members perform, either solo or as part of a team piece. If this occurs, the team will be penalized with a 30.0 point deduction from their final team score for the bout in question.

I think I will actually drop this section. It isn’t possible to break this rule without ALREADY breaking the previous rules. It is redundant.

k) At the end of each preliminary bout, teams will receive an overall final score by adding together the scores of their four performances in the bout. The team will then be ranked according to relative placement. The top team in the bout will receive a ranking of 1, second place a 2, and so on.

Nothing exciting here.

l) Each team will participate in two preliminary bouts. At the conclusion of the preliminary round, their rankings from the two bouts will be added together. The eight teams with the lowest combined ranking scores will move on to the semifinal round.

This is also nothing new. The question is, how to we determine ties?

m) Ties in combined rankings are possible and are broken in the following order:

  1. Highest ‘Strength of Schedule’, defined as the combined placement points of all six team faced by the team.
  2. Highest placement (i.e. a team with rankings of 1 and 3 finishes ahead of a team with rankings of 2 and 2);
  3. Overall total score (determined by adding the two overall final scores from both preliminary bouts together);
  4. Highest individual scores.


There it is. Clear as day.


I’ll start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of ‘Strength of Schedule’ as a tie breaker. I have been lobbying for it since at least 2009. It has been in place since 2013 for CFSW. It ensures that the team that actually performs the best, against the toughest competition, is who moves on.

Let me explain it using an example.

Team A has a combined placement score of 4. They came 2nd in both of their bouts. Team B has a combined placement score of 4. They got a 1st and a 3rd.

Under the old system, Team B would have moved on.

But let’s look at the competition each team faced. Team A faced 3 teams who would their other bouts and 3 teams who placed 2nd in their other bouts. Those 6 teams, when all of THEIR placements are added together, have a score of 25.

Team B faced 3 teams who came 3rd in their other bouts. They also faced 3 teams who came 4th in their other bouts. Those 6 teams, when all of THEIR placements are added together, have a score of 37.

It is clear that Team A faced much stiffer competition, therefore they win the tiebreaker.

This year it didn’t come up as it turned out that the top 8 teams had a combined score of 2 or 3, but ONLY the top 8 teams had a score of 2 or 3. There was no tie that needed breaking.

That is rare. This IS the first year where you HAD to win a bout to have any chance to move on, by the way.

n) There will be two semi-final bouts with four teams each. The teams that finish first and second in each semi-final bout move on to the finals.

Section n is also not controversial but…

There will also be a new section added to clarify what happens when there is a tie for 2nd during the semi-finals. This has always BEEN the rule (I can recall talking about in 2010, the first time there WAS a semi-final.

If there is a tie for 2nd place at the end of a semi-final, the tie will be broken by the highest INDIVIDUAL score in the bout from the teams that are tied.

This is the first year it happened, but the rule was already in place, just unwritten.

HOWEVER, there is NO rule in place for a tie for the win at finals

I have been the one who says, ‘what’s wrong with a tie? Let both teams win’, but that is an unpopular choice. Also, there won’t be enough trophies.:)

Here is my suggestion:


If there is a tie for FIRST place at the FINALS, it goes to a sudden death round. Each tied team can send up any team member(s) they want, doing any poem they want (even if they already performed it during the festival or previous festivals), with the exception of any of the four poems performed by the team IN the finals.

Judges will not score the poems. Instead they will watch both and then choose which they thought was better. That team will win the event.


So, what do you think about how we decide ties?