Capital Slam Finals… a Rusty Perspective…

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
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It had to happen eventually…

I guess…

I didn’t make the team.

It was an amazing show and an exciting night and I knew that I was a long-shot but… yeah, I am disappointed. I am a little at loose ends right now. I know that I have a lot of things on my plate and I will definitely still be busy with performing and writing etc… but the last time I had a summer that wasn’t completely tied up in CFSW prep was 2006…

For every disappointment there is excitement for someone else. I am over the moon that Sean O’Gorman made the team. I am very happy for Sense-Say… but I feel for Graeme and Pruf, who I know were hoping for better. I feel you guys.

Here is the night:

Thanks to my wonderful, amazing, talented wife Ruthanne Edward, a lot of my usual show stress was alleviated by her taking on the role of bout manager and show coordinator. It let me concentrate on getting in my zone and making sure I was ready.

Nate kicked off the show in fine form. He was in the hosting groove and things were flowing. ArRay-of-WoRds was the first sac and used a bit of theatrics that would have gotten his ass DQed if he WASN’T the sac… but it was all in fun.

Then Nate reached his hand into the magical top hat… and any dreams I had about making up the gap between me and the team spots after my disappointing semi-finals vanished. I was drawn first.

We lecture about score creep every time, but it exists EVERY TIME. I got one of the biggest ovations of the first round. People LOVED the poem. There was no question I was in my zone. (I did Angst.)

I knew what going first meant. Then the scores starting coming down. 8.8… 8.7… That was it. I knew I was done. There was no way that the scores would stay below nine during the Finals night at Capital Slam. And remembering that ‘good enough’ wasn’t good enough since I had to MAKE UP points because I came in 8th in the semis… yeah well. 9.0… 8.9… 9.7. Thanks to that last judge (who gave me their highest score of the night). Final 26.7. I was done. I ended up 6th in the round… but again, even if I was 5th, I needed better.

A note on the judges. They did a very good job. They were consistent and fair. The scoring was tight (which made it harder to move up… but not impossible as O’G showed. But score creep is almost impossible to avoid.

I do think I made the show better. 🙂 By kicking off with such a high energy piece that got the crowd excited, I think I helped set the tone and made things easier for the poets that followed.

Next up was Loh El. He was in first after the semis and he did a very strong and moving piece about his parents and his poetry and netted a 27.4.

Mack Cannon was next and the judges weren’t feeling him so much. I don’t think he was any worse than he was in the semis (when he placed 4th) but the judges were different and so were the results. He got a 26.5.

After the semis Sense-Say was in second by only .1 and I knew that his ‘best’ poem was still sitting there. He did it tonight and scored a 27.6, sneaking ahead of Loh El.

PrufRock and Bruce Narbaitz were next and got 27.1 and 27.0, basically holding position.

Elle P (unfortunately the only woman in the finals. There were three others in the semis but they did not move on… one due to a time penalty). She SCORED a 27.2, but her pace was way off. Her piece ran 4:05 and she got one of only two time penalties of the night… and it was a 3 pointer!

Sean O’Gorman got the anchor spot and KILLED, grabbing a 27.4, VAULTING him up the rankings.

All of a sudden it was Sense-Say ahead of Loh El by .1, Bruce still in third and then Prufock and O’G tied in 4th! (I was behind them by an ‘all-but-insurmountable 1.0’ in 7th, between Mack and Elle P.)

On the break I weighed my options. I had two ‘safer’ picks: Tricks and Moving to Arizona. Safer due to my comfort level with performing them.

I said ‘the hell with safe’.

I decided to do ‘Insomnia’, which is not up here because it is new (hence the ‘less safe’). Other than Loh El in the first round, nobody had done anything that raw and emotional. I was going up last and I figured if there was ever a time it would get rewarded, it would be there.

By the time my spot came up, all of these considerations were gone. To make up the time I would have had to net the top score of the entire night.

Poetic Speed was the second round sac. He was awesome as ever.

Sean O’Gorman went up first in the second round and did the letter to his niece which is a simply amazing poem. He often gets a time penalty with it and I think he shortened it this time. It made it a little bit weaker (in my opinion) than the full length version, but the judges didn’t know that. 🙂 They rewarded him strongly with a 27.8

Elle P was next. Her big time penalty in the first round had knocked her out but this time she seemed more confident and smoother and got a 27.1 (Oddly, a lower score than her first round piece – which the judges gave a 27.2 – though it seemed better to me.

Bruce Narbaitz was next and he did the best poem I have heard from him… which should be no surprise because it sounded like a poem I would write. 🙂 It was about the importance of art, a topic which is right in my wheelhouse. He got a 27.7

PrufRock was next and he needed a 27.8 to stay even with O’G. He got a 27.8.


Then came Sense-Say, who also was in tight. He needed to at least tie with the yet-to-come Loh El to maintain his lead. He came strong and got a 27.7

Mack Cannon was next and as I said, he was no worse tonight, but the judges were not in his corner. He needed to top 28 to catch back up but he got a 27.1 (a note: both Mack and Elle P will get another shot over at Urban Legends. Their semi-finals are next Friday)

Loh El was next and to even up with Sense-Say he needed a 27.8

He blew by that with a 28.2 putting him back into first, with the biggest lead of the night. .4

By now I knew to catch up to the team positions I needed a 28.8. With these judges on this night, nobody was getting that. I decided to do ‘Insomnia’ anyway. I had a bit of a flub early, that I don’t think anyone really caught. I recovered it nicely and go through the rest. I finished strong, but I knew it wasn’t enough… even if the scores were closer. 27.3

In the end I finished 6th in both rounds, so it WASN’T the hole from the semis that did me in. I just wasn’t up to it this year.

Because of the tie, we had FIVE poets in the third round. Loh El had a .4 lead on Sense-Say and seemed a lock for the win. The real excitement seemed to be between O’G and Pruf. One would be the team alternate (which is still on the team and a very important position, but I think most people would prefer to get to be in a competing spot).

O’G went up first and did one of his recent classics. 27.8

Then Pruf did his ‘Snow’ poem… the patois sequel to his ‘Food’ poem from last year. People loved it and the judges gave him a 28.1, enough to edge out O’G… BUT he went 3:13. A .5 time penalty was his undoing (much like it was for Vanessa Baker in the semis).

Bruce Nabaitz went up in a solid position. He couldn’t really catch Sense-Say and Loh El, and (barring a melt down) couldn’t drop below O’G and Pruf. He got a 28.1 and stayed where he was.

Then came Sense-Say. He absolutely SLAYED. He got the highest score of the entire night, nailing a 28.5. Suddenly Loh El’s spot wasn’t quite as secure. He needed a 28.2 to stay even.

He did an erotica piece that… moved the crowd. (A woman in the audience LITERALLY moaned during the poem).

He needed a 28.1

He got a 28.0

Sense-Say is the 2011 Capital Slam Champion.

A VERY new team. O’G was on the Wild Card team last year and Pruf has important experience in the alt spot, but Sense-Say, Loh El and Bruce are all new to the festival. It will be an interesting year as they try to Three-peat for Capital Slam and Ottawa.

The night was rounded off my Nathanael Larochette doing a poem accompanied by his Musk Ox brother Rafael on cello. It was beautiful. BEAUTIFUL! Before that he announced he was stepping down as Collective Director after a three year run. Ruthanne and I went up and gave him a plaque and thanks for all he has done over the three years.

Even though I strongly support the ‘cumulative scoring system’ that we use, I always think it is interesting to see what would have happened if we didn’t and the Finals stood on their own. It gives a better idea about what the judges really loved that night. It would have been:


1. Sense-Say
2. Loh El
3. Sean O’Gorman
4. PrufRock
5. Bruce Narbaitz
6. Rusty Priske
7. Mack Cannon
8. Elle P

Rather than the REAL results:


1. Sense-Say
2. Loh El
3. Bruce Narbaitz
4. Sean O’Gorman
5. PrufRock
6. Mack Cannon
7. Rusty Priske
8. Elle P

So… now what? For the team? WORK WORK WORK

For me… the same really, just different work.

This Tuesday is the Capital Poetry Collective AGM. If you have any stake in what goes on with our shows, come down to the Royal Oak on Laurier at 7pm. We will be electing a new Director among other things.

Then Capital Slam never rests! Our next show is July 9th at the Mercury Lounge. The feature is Steve Miller from Vancouver. It will be stellar!

I will also be hosting the LiPS Slam Finals in Smiths Falls on the 18th and DJing at the Once Upon a Slam Finals at the Mercury Lounge on the 25th!

AND I will be performing with Kevin Matthews, Mehdi Hamdad and Marjoline Beauchamp at the National Gallery throughout the summer as part of the Caravaggio exhibit.

Wow. Maybe it is better that I didn’t make the team!

(The answer to that is no. Look out 2012…)

  1. […] Comments Capital Slam Finals… on TricksCapital Slam Finals… on Moving to ArizonaCapital Slam Finals… on Angsttonichow on […]

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