Pressure and Error

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Usually about this time of year, I do a post about the pressure I am feeling about the CapSlam Finals etc.

I AM feeling pressure this year, but it is different from other years.

The Final regular season CapSlam was on Saturday. The slam was incredible. I felt pretty confident that I would make semi-finals. I was in 11th and while it was possible to get knocked out, it was pretty unlikely. We are taking 16 poets for the first time this year, in two semi-finals.

It got closer than I would have liked.

Three ‘two-time’ poets came out and slammed: D-Lightfull, Sense-Say and Ali Islam. Sense-Say and D-Lightfull came first and second. Ali came seventh, but his previous two slams were much more successful. Then Shaun Sullivan pulled his score up by having a great showing.

I dropped to #15.

Still in.

Not that I realized how it had gone right away.

I like announcing the semi-finalists at the last show. I think it is a great, fun moment. It has generally gone well.

This year I botched it up royally. I have to do three sorts and rankings to get the right order. It is not a simple system, but I think it gives the best results. I am even working on an on-line version that will allow slams to have all this done automatically.

I screwed up one of the sorts. I don’t know how, but I did.

Then I read out the semi-finalists and schedule. Two poets were left off that CLEARLY should have made the semis. That also meant two poets were announced as being IN the semis when they weren’t.

Also, the schedule I announced was all wrong.

What a mess.

Somehow, Brad heard about the announcement all the way out in B.C. I have no idea how that happened, but he texted me asking how it was possible that V didn’t get in. I hadn’t made it home yet. I suspected there was a problem but I had faith in the system.

The system worked. I had just messed it up.

Maybe I am being too hard on myself but I take this stuff REALLY seriously. I am now the Spoken Word Canada National Slam Master. People NEED to have faith that when I give them results, that they are right. Or, more accurately, I need them to need that faith…

I let myself down.


Next came inviting poets to participate in the Capital Slam semi-finals, based on the new schedule… including me.

I got the date I wanted (April 20th), but the line-up looked deadly. It looked to be a pretty rough slam to try and get through to the finals. Without naming names, when I scanned the list I saw three people I thought of as locks for the finals. That meant to make it through I would have to beat everybody else. Only four get through.

But then things started to change…


First, a little history lesson.

In 2009 I stood alongside Ian Keteku at a Spoken Word Canada meeting in Victoria arguing for the inclusion of a new slam, Urban Legends, at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word the following year. At that time it was unusual for a city to have more than one team. Toronto was the only one. We argued that Urban Legends was important because Capital Slam took place at a bar and there was a large Muslim population that was not being served by having only the one slam.
I believed in Urban Legends. I still do. I think it is a great, vibrant slam in a booming Ottawa slam scene.
However, there were still questions about how to handle a second slam in the city. We had watched what happened in the Toronto area where multiple slams were in easy access to one another. (Now there are even more. A lot more.) We saw teams that ended up having poets that hadn’t even made that scene’s finals, because after the teams were made, poets took off and joined different teams.
That is completely unacceptable. I have thought right from the first time I saw it happen (on the 2006 Capital Slam Finals stage), that someone who has no intention of taking part in the team has no business competing for those spots. There are other poets who would LOVE to have the opportunity and you are taking it from them.
(I put my money where my mouth was in 2010. I was going to be the SlamMaster at CFSW that year. It would be the first time since I started as a poet that I wouldn’t be in the CapSlam post-season. There were those who told me that I should slam anyway and then drop out. Nobody would complain. I disagreed.)
CapSlam already had a contract, but we made sure that kept going (and later, beefed it up a bit).
I tried to sit down with the U.L. organizers to decide what we were going to do with having two teams but I had a hard time getting hold of one of them. I sat with the other and we agreed that poets would have to choose which semi-final that they would compete it. Straight up. Make your decision and that’s it.
I don’t love that decision, but it is the one we came up with in the end.
When the end of season rolled around, there were some stalwart CapSlam poets who chose to compete with U.L. instead of CapSlam. That hurt a little, but I understood why they chose the way they did.
Then the ‘missing’ U.L. organizer showed up and refused the agreement I had made with his ‘partner’. They weren’t going to limit poets from competing at U.L. at all. It seemed that he was okay with poets making the CapSlam team and then going and competing at U.L. as well.
I had, and have, a real problem with this.
Still, we had a contract and as long as the poets followed it, we were still solid.
The U.L. semi-finals happened after the CapSlam semi-finals, so the four poets who did not make our finals were welcomed at U.L.
That was not our initial agreement, but in retrospect, I am perfectly okay with that.
Still, it made for a somewhat awkward set-up. Back then, our semi-finals and finals were cumulative (which is a system I still endorse, but we have had to go away from it now that we have two semi-finals). The meant we had a poet who finished 8th at the semi-finals and thus wasn’t able to compete at U.L. but also had only a very slight chance of making the CapSlam team, while the poet who finished 9th was able to do U.L. (and made that team).
This was not the end of the world but I felt that the poet who was 8th got a little ill-treated (not that he complained).
The integrity of the competition remained.
Those were the 2010 teams that ended up finishing 1st and 2nd at CFSW. Things were happy.

The next two years, under new management, Urban Legends chose to postpone their semi-finals until after the CapSlam finals. This meant that ANY poet who didn’t make the CapSlam team would be eligible to compete at U.L.
The immediate concern was that U.L. would become the ‘B-team’, made up of the people who couldn’t make the ‘A-team’.
That absolutely did not happen. It was U.L. that made the finals stage that year. That team has turned into Missing Linx, who are nobody’s ‘B-team’.
This year, things are changing again. U.L. is under new management again and they are moving their semi-finals back before the CapSlam finals. This ‘could’ end up with that ‘8th place’ problem, but it shouldn’t because we no longer have cumulative scoring. Now when a poet makes the CapSlam finals, that are on an even playing field with everybody else.
Not my ideal situation (I like the way it was the last couple of years). We are back to having poets have to choose where they want to go, which I don’t think really benefits anybody.

So, here we are. I sent out 16 invites and wait for responses. I have already had two poets decline (one because he doesn’t want to be on a team this year and one because he wants to focus on U.L.).
I have six poets who haven’t responded at all… or having told me they are ‘thinking about it’.

I have to say right off that as an organizer, this is completely okay. People need to decide what is best for them.

But I think some of them may be making a mistake.
Do they think it will be ‘easier’ to make the U.L. team? They are wrong. There are some high-talent poets who will be throwing down there (just like there will be at CapSlam).
If it is that they like the ‘vibe’ there better, well, I can’t argue that. You like what you like.
I just think that if someone wants to MAXIMIZE their chances of making one of the teams, they should accept the CapSlam invite. If they don’t make the finals, they can still do U.L.

That’s just my opinion of course. It I was eligible to do both, I would certainly be taking that path.

Of course, maybe people are just slow to respond. I hope that changes, because it is less than two weeks to the first semi-final.
Then there is Rusty the poet. I didn’t make the finals last year.
That sucked.
I publicly avowed to not care so much about my slam scores last year. I meant it. I did it… a bit.
I have to be honest, though… I love slam. I love that buzz I get on a good night. I feed on it.

I want more.

As I said, I drew a pretty tough semi-final (though one of those auto-locks has declined the invite to do U.L.), but I am okay with that. I feel good about my poems. I feel like my performance is going to be good.
If that isn’t good enough, what else can I do?

I actually think my finals poems are better, but that are better suited to the finals so I can’t switch them up.
I am going into the semi-finals with 3 pieces. One that I am doing for sure and two that I am choosing from, depending on the night.
I know who five of the eight poets will be FOR SURE. I still need to hear from three of them. Until then, it is hard to know what I think the ‘feel’ of the night will be. Every poet changes everything, if you know what I am saying.

Confirmed for the April 20th Semi-Final:
D-Lightfull, V, Shaun Sullivan, Vince Kang, Mia Morgan, me

Confirmed for the May 4th semi-final:

Gavin Russell, Candice Bruchhaeuser, Bruce Narbaitz, Ali Islam, Missaralee

We’ll see….

  1. rpriske says:

    Updated Semi-Finalist List. Mia Morgan has agreed to compete.

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