Capital Slam Semi-Finals

Posted: May 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

I know that some people use my blog as a kind of ‘unofficial recap’ of CapSlam shows, and that is cool so I often try and do them as impartially as possible.

That isn’t going to happen with this one. I am too caught up in it. I have talked earlier about how important this year felt to me. Well, I am not out, but it still kind of feels like I got kicked in the stomach.

The crowd was kind of slow to arrive, and a little less than I was hoping for, but we were still over 175 all told, which is pretty good for a poetry show. 🙂 Hopefully we will be over 250 for the finals.

The first round started with Sarah Musa as sac. Sarah had actually earned a spot in the competition but she stepped aside (she is one of the organizers at Urban Legends and I imagine that is where she wants to focus her energies).

Then the slam started. The first randomly selected poet was Mack Cannon. It is never good to go first so he came out guns blazing with his alphabetical poem. He ended up with a score right in the middle if the pack (27.4), which is pretty good after drawing the ace.

Next was PrufRock. This was one of the biggest surprises early… he netted a 26.9. Yes it was early, but Mack had just done better and I had Pruf as one of my early picks to win the whole thing.

The next two were Elle P and Vanessa Baker and both of them were solid, but not spectacular and Vanessa got the only time penalty of the night (which would come back to haunt her). 27.2 and 26.4

Loh El was next and he raised the bar. He did his poem about being a man in the new millennium and the crowd and judges both loved it. 28.6 Top mark of the first round.

Grace Defined was up next and she came in at a 27.2

I’m sorry that I don’t remember all of the content of the poems, but that is because I was kind of freaking out in my own head.

I was next. I had been planning to do ‘Darwin’s Theory of Revolution’ in the first round but I was second guessing myself. I instead did ‘The Fifth Beatle’. It seemed to me that it was time to go personal, because there had been a lot of fire so far. It seemed to go over strong, but the judges were ‘middle-of-the road’ on it. So much so that I scored a 27.5, which was the perfect average of the scores in the first round.

After I heard good things from other poets… those that understood the extra message in the piece… the Recipe references, mostly.

Sean O’Gorman was next and scored pretty close to me (27.6). Then Sense-Say rocked it and got as close as anyone to Loh El with a 28.3.

The next two were big surprises, for opposite reasons. Brad Morden went up and did nowhere near as good as his talent would dictate (if you know what I am saying) and netted a 26.9, and then Bruce Narbaitz seemed to strike the right nerve with the judges and got a 28.2!

Danielle K.L. Gregoire wrapped up the first round with ‘We Never Kissed’ and a very respectable 27.3

Normally drawing last is great, but during the semis and the finals, it is really not a good spot since you have to go first in the second round.

During the break I scrambled. I had ‘Darwin’s Theory of Revolution’… mostly ready. I had ‘Why Art?’ on standby and I started thinking I should do ‘Tricks’. I talked it over with Ruthanne and Chris Tse and decided the best way to go was with the new heat.

Turns out that was a mistake.

The second round started with another sac – Kimbit, who was the runner up to the slam qualifiers. She sang in her poem, which may have changed what Danielle was going to do it her spot. Danielle read a new piece but it wasn’t her night. She got a 26.4.

Bruce Narbaitz then went back up and again really struck home with the judges, netting a 28.4. Now, to be clear, I have nothing against Bruce and think that has got some chops, but this is a pretty tough field and scoring as high as he did in it is pretty impressive, and surprising.

Brad Morden did a lot better in the second round, but would it be enough for him to pull up? 28.2

Sense-Say went next and blasted a GREAT poem about ‘The Body’. 29.0, and the highest mark of the slam thus far.

Sean O’Gorman did his thing, getting a solid 28.1 and then it was my turn.

Then it was my turn. If I wrote this post last night, my words would be different. I did ‘Darwin’s Theory of Revolution’. It is a tough poem to perform. I spent a month working on it… but apparently it needed another month. Last night I had people telling me that it was too complicated for the audience. They were only hearing the wordplay and not the meaning behind it. I had people telling me that it was being judged as all style and no content even though there was a ton of content. That made me sad, because I would hate to think that I had to ‘write down’ to the audience.

Then I watched the video. Robin LeWilliam-North had filmed it and posted it (with my permission). My delivery was terrible. There was a couple small glitches, but even without them, it was cold… wooden. None of the flavour of the piece that I hear in my head came through. It was mechanical. There is nobody to blame here but me.

I got a 27.9, a full .4 off the pace for the round. Not good.

Grace Defined followed with a 27.8 and then Loh El blasted the crowd with a rousing 28.8.

Vanessa Baker then took her game to a whole other level. SHe did a gutsy and powerful poem that was strongly rewarded by the judges. 28.9

Elle P did a piece that… well, she scored better than I thought she would, based on how well she did in the first round. I thought that the judges weren’t down with her style, but if they weren’t, they sure warmed to it. 28.6

Prufrock came next. He had a bit of a whole in the first round but he came back super-strong and got the highest mark of the whole competition. 29.1. Mack Cannon sealed the deal with a 28.8

OpenSecret and Chris Tse both performed and then Nathanael read out the semi-finalists. He started on 1 and as he got down to the end I was sweating. Eight poets move onto the finals.

1. Loh El – 57.4
2. Sense-Say – 57.3 (Super close!)
3. Bruce Narbaitz – 56.6 (Biggest surprise of the night)
4. Mack Cannon – 56.2
5. PrufRock – 56.0
6. Elle P – 55.8
7. Sean O’Gorman – 55.7
8. Rusty Priske – 55.4

In by the skin of my teeth. Earlier I had thought I had a chance to actually win and get my name on the belt this year. (Not favoured, but a chance) Instead I am not even close. My chances of making the team are fleeting at best. In 2009 I went into the Finals tied in last with Brandon Wint. After the finals he was 4th and I was 5th (team alternate), but that took a 1st and 2nd on the night to pull that off. Pretty slim odds. (That team became the Recipe…)

the rest of the scores were:

9. Vanessa Baker – 55.3 (behind me by .1. Remember that time penalty she got? That was the only thing that kept me in the game…)
10. Brad Morden – 55.1 (I was really sorry to see this. I thought Brad had a shot at a team spot)
11. Grace Defined – 55.0
12. Danielle K.L. Gregoire – 53.7

So now I have to work on the finals. No holding back…

Friday, June 10th. Doors at 6:30. Alumni Auditorium, University of Ottawa.

  1. J Loveday says:

    Your only out of 4th by .8 – You can make that difference up! Good luck!

  2. RC says:

    I have no idea how your system works but I figure if you’re in the finals then you have a shot at making the team.

    I think I’m going to fly in on the 10th to catch this.


    • rpriske says:

      Really? That would be awesome! (Did you get my message about Ottawa during the Fringe?)

      • RC says:

        yes, I did.

        I think the Fringe is supposed to be finding me a billet for my time there. I’m also hoping to spend a couple days with my non poet friends Ally and Sarah and their son Robbie.

        So, I think I’m good. Thanks though, I really appreciate it.

  3. Ikenna says:

    Abslutely NO holding back!! From the bottom of my heart, I believe u will do well. I believe u can make one of the top 4 spots!

    • rpriske says:

      Well, I had ‘no chance’ of making the team in 2008 and ‘only a slim chance’ of making the team in 2009 and both times I ended as alternate… for which I am eternally grateful.

      The 2009 team was one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had, from working with you guys to getting to do a short set for my family in Victoria.

      I will just do my best. If I make it, great. If I don’t, maybe it was time for someone else to get that experience.


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