A Van Full of Poets

Posted: February 22, 2010 in Poetry, Slam
Tags: ,

Capital Slam was Saturday and for the SECOND SLAM IN A ROW, fully HALF of the slammers were women! In fact, since three of the four open micers were women, there were more female performers than male!

Wow, it seems like just yesterday when we were asking ourselves why women weren’t coming out to slam!

Open Secret won the show with the top five rounded up with Caytey Lush (a visiting slammer from Motnreal), Loh El, Sean O’Gorman (his best result yet!), and in from Lanark County – Inez Dekker! DaneJahRas was the feature and he was great!

The next Slam is on March 6th and features Elyse Maltin. For March there will be a priority sign-up for any poet who has slammed only once this season. To be clear, though, there is a lot of them (we have had 67 different slammers this season!), so it is still no guarantee. Make sure you get there early.

For the record, the poets who have priority this time are:
Angela Plant
Brandon Wilson
Brother Gavin
Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld
Caytey Lush
Crazy Dave
Dan C.
DJ Aunt Heather
Douglas Thew
Father Truth
Graham Coles
Inez Dekker
Jenna Tenn-Yuk
Jonathan Appleseed
Josie Frank
Ken Kicksee
Kevin Matthews
Madame H
Miriam Alsakammari
Monica King
Monique Simonot
N is for Nubian
Nathan Bishop
Ron Lankton
Ruby Ruth
Ruthanne Edward
Sir Realist
Tammy Mackenzie
Truth Is…

CONTEXT: November, 2007

October, 2007 included my first ever trip to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. The Ottawa team was Free Will (2007 CapSlam champion), Nathanael Larochette, One (Mehdi Hamdad), me (Rusty Priske) with Danielle K.L. Gregoire as the alternate.
We rented a van and drove out to Halifax (though Nate was already out there and we brought John Akpata and Kevin Matthews along with us in the van).
That was something. I really value the opportunity to spend time with people I care for and respect.

As for how the competition went… you can glean some of it from the poem, but let us just say we didn’t do so well. We finished 8th out of 8 teams. On the first night, I was the lowest scoring poet out of anyone.

I took that pretty hard.

I came to grips with it eventually and then came back to Ottawa and went back to work.

Wow, was THAT hard.

As much as poetry has brought to me, it has also cost me something. I remember when I could be satisfied with a regular job. Now I feel like my need to pay the bills is such a waste of time. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with the job, just that I feel like I should be a full time artist.

Well, that sure isn’t going to happen.

Oh well.

As a bit of trivia, this poem is the worst performing slam poem I have ever done. A lot of that is circumstantial. I performed it in January, 2008. I wasn’t planning on competing but due to weather we had a poor turn out and I was pressed into service. I was sick and didn’t have the piece memorized, so I had to read it.

Anyway… oh, yeah. Everything in this poem about the trip is true… AND it actually happened. 🙂

    A Van Full of Poets

Slipping into gear
And pulling away from the curb
A van full of poets
Heading east seeking
Neither fame nor fortune

Six people so enamoured with words
That they have become their calling
Leads to interesting conversation
From the history of hip-hop
And understanding overstanding
And the grand new adventure
When Rusty misses yet another
Correct exit

Putting normalcy in the rearview
As Why Art? becomes Why Not Art?
And what you are and what you do
Is no longer defined by a paycheque

The asphalt slips by
As a carousel of mountains and trees
Turns around us

The props guy flips a switch and greens
Turn to golds and yellows and reds
And reality turns to surreality as
We enter Charlie’s world and marvel
At the wonder of a Hot Chocolate Bay

Stops are like rituals of liquid
Intake and output before climbing
Back into our literary chariot,
Pilgrimage not paused, but extended
By the grace of old man Irving

We step into a coffee shop to discover
Vegan muffins and tea
And the barista asks,
“Are you guys a band?”
And seems no less imrpessed
When we say, “No. We’re poets.”

And I have to admit that I wasn’t
Completely truthful when I said
We seek neither fame nor fortune

In Halifax our van full of poets
Becomes a city full of poets
Or at least it seems that way
Or maybe a country
As we see sea to sea

Poet after poet after poet
And then we go
And then I go

Something shifts
I am not the conquering hero
Spreading love and magic
Through art and word
Something slips
And I wonder if
I let my community down

Scrutiny isn’t new to me
I’m used to being read
Worldwide and rail-thin
By people who think they could
Do it better (and maybe they could)
But this time my critic was me

Then, all of a sudden, I was free
The scores no longer mattered
I mean, we always SAY they don’t matter
But this time it was actually true
Freedom to share love and pain
Excitement and rage
Loneliness and fear
And life

Doing poetry in the rain
Surrounded by my sister and brothers
Having poets and the crowd and even
A random stranger in the street
Tell me that my words moved them
Is better than any trophy

Then back in the van
Sharing stories of love and tears
Leaving the magic of a life
Of art and beauty behind
To return to computer screens
And fabric walls
And staff meetings
Where creativity is misdefined
As problem solving
And art is something inoffensive
Put on a boardroom wall
Because some expert said
It was ‘conducive’ to something or other

I want to love in that ‘other’ world
Where everyday is poetry day
And payment comes from a
Warm smile of understanding
Instead of a number, digitally
Transferred from one machine
To another

And ideas matter
And words matter
And music matters
And I matter
And you matter
And we matter

And then, just for a moment
I am there

The walls slip away
And the universe lies exposed
The laws of physics give way
To the laws of dreamers

I get into the van and say,
“Climb in. There is room for everyone.
Of course you can bring your guitar.”

I slip into gear and pull away from the curb
A van full of poets
Heading anywhere
Seeking everything


Next up is the OTHER poem inspired by the Halifax trip… and in turn has done some inspiring of its own…

  1. […] shares some thematic qualities with this one. It also refers to one of my older poems. The […]

  2. […] The pieces I performed were: Shadow Boxing, One Petal, Trapeze Artist, A Van Full of Poets. […]

  3. […] fact, it is my third worst performing poem at slams of all time, ahead of only A Van Full of Poets and Air. Four-Colour […]

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