Posts Tagged ‘Capital Slam’

Oops… I Won!

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I wasn’t going to slam. I actually was planning to not slam again until May. I do have some new stuff but I have a feature in March at Dusty Owl (March 18th! A whole hour!) to promote my book (Rusty Priske: Trapeze Artist), so it isn’t the time to work up new stuff.

I also have some ideas but haven’t been writing and May comes fast.

Then came the snow storm on Friday. It really messed up attendance at Once Upon A Slam and there was serious spillover at Capital Slam. So, as the list was filling up… well, it wasn’t filling up. I did what I always do it this situation… put my name down. We need a certain amount of slammers to make a decent show, so I put myself down to pad the list.

Then I got into performance mode.

Then more people signed up, including a last minute addition of our DJ, PrufRock. This meant I didn’t really HAVE to slam, but by then my brain had shifted and I was ready to go. We had ten slammers, including four new people (new to us, anyway… AJ Comeau has done Once Upon A Slam, Vessel has done Urban Legends and our Open Mic, Rolling Zen has done… a lot of stuff) and some cagey vets (even young ones), Brad Morden, CauseMo, ArRay-of-WoRds, Mia Morgan and the aforementioned PrufRock.

Right when the names were going to start to come out I said to Ruthanne, “I am going up late. I can feel it.” Sometimes I can taste the bullet, but this time didn’t feel like that. At this point I didn’t really care about the scores etc. I just wanted to perform well. Brad went up, Monique, Ray… Good scores but nothing that separated from the pack. I remember thinking. “Hmmm… I could get in there.”

Then Pruf hit the mic and BLASTED it! Hw scored BIG with a full 1.3 point lead on 2nd (Ray).

Oh, remember I said that I felt like I would draw late? It got to be more than that. With four people left I said to Ruthanne, “Pruf, Mia, Allister then me.”

The last four, in order, were Pruf… Mia… Allister… me. 🙂

Now back to thinking that I had a good shot to get in the second round (but not a sure thing) and NO chance to catch Pruf, I went up and did Angst. I have always liked that piece, but its reception down at CFSW in Toronto really put in into the forefront of my mind. Plus I enjoy performing it and I dig the message and energy.

So did the crowd. They popped big.

So did the judges.

29.6. First place… ahead of Pruf by .1

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Feeling the love.

Due to the gap between 2nd and 3rd, we knew there were only two of us who could win (barring two major meltdowns on stage). I went from ‘just performing to fill a spot’ to ‘performing because I wanted to’ to ‘holy crap… I could WIN this thing!’

Flashback. I have technically won Capital Slam twice before, but I think of it as once. Sept. 2007 was my time. Since then I was part of a three-way tie during a summer slam, but a: a three-way tie is certainly not as satisfying and b: summer slams are way lower key. I have also won some out in Lanark, but CapSlam is my home, you know?

So… what to do? Earlier in the day, while walking the dog, I ran through some pieces, prepping for that Dusty Owl feature. That meant I had four poems fairly fresh in my mind. One was Angst. The other three were Why Art?, Moving to Arizona and 1968.

Why Art? used to my staple piece. So much so that I pretty much stopped performing it… got to keep things fresh, you know? The last time I slammed it was at the CapSlam 5th Anniversary show back in 2009. The only time I have performed it AT ALL lately was in a duo-mixed version with my Copper Conundrum co-hort, Kevin Matthews (who was AT CapSlam last night! That was cool!)

Sure, I thought. Why Art? Why not?

The feature was awesome, though I ducked out a couple of times to run through my piece in my head.

I tried to ‘predict’ the second round draw… meaning I decided what would be best for me. Pruf first. Me last. 🙂

That didn’t happen. I went up 3rd, after Mia and Brad. When I started the piece I heard a reaction from a couple of people, but not too many. It was clear that MOST of the people in the room were unfamiliar with it.

Good. That meant any reaction was legit, and not just ‘nostalgia’.

I felt really good about my performance of Angst. My confidence was high. My flow was solid. It just felt right. That really boosted my feel for the second round. It was just as smooth. It sounded like it does in my head.

Great crowd reaction. he judges gave me a 29.2. That is a great score but Pruf was still to come.

I’ll be honest. I thought I had lost. Not because I didn’t do well and not because I was unhappy with my marks. Neither were true. I just have great faith in Pruf’s ability to kill it. When he got called up fifth (there were six poets that round due to a tie in the first round), I thought, ‘he’s got this’. Brad and I have done shows where we try to predict the scores before the poet even finishes the piece, based on how the judges have been scoring. I said to Ruthanne that what I wanted to happen (being honest) was for PrufRock to be amazing… and score a 29.2, giving me a .1 win. Brad looked at me and said, “29.6. No… 29.7”. I laughed and said, “Whose side are you on?” 🙂

My hopes were almost exactly realized. He DID a great piece. The crowd loved it. The judges gave him… a 29.1. I was standing at the back with Ruthanne and Graeme and I started jumping around… quietly so as not to distract from the show.

I was pretty happy.

John Akpata was live tweeting it and he said some pretty nice things.

Rusty Priske brings great work. “Sometimes writing happy is a lie.” A Slam-Master who is also one of the best! #CapitalSlam Blaouw!!!

Rusty Priske is back. ‘Why Art?’ #CapitalSlam and the Mercury Lounge get a classic. The Slam Master gets it at every level.

Oh, I updated the season rankings… I am now in 2nd place!

All in all… what a great night.


Slamming Weekend

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
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This weekend started off badly as Thursday night I found myself both dead tired and unable to sleep. I have been having problems with unfocused stress lately and it has be taking it out on my sleep patterns somewhat (among other things).

I ended up staying home from work. As it is I only got aobut 3-4 hours of sleep.

Early Friday afternoon Brad Morden contacted me and asked if I was going out to Perth that night for the Lanark Slam that evening. I wasn’t but Johnny MacRae was in town and he could use a lift. We decided that we would make a trip of it with Ruthanne and Brad also coming.

The LiPS slam out in Lanark County is always fun. It is a VERY different feel from the slams in town. Brad nad I both decided to slam! (Ottawa poets are welcome to slam in Lanark but our scores do not count towards their season to ensure a Lanark County Team rather than an Ottawa offshoot team. Good idea, in my opinion. I think more communities should do that…)

The judging that night was… different than what I am used to. All five judges were new to slam (I later learned) and they didn’t seem to really like ‘slam-style’ pieces… except when they did. It was postulated that they seemed to like things with a very clear and direct message.

I did my new piece ‘Four-Colour World’ and did fairly poorly. Brad also did much less than expected.

In the second round I did a toned-down version of FN and that went over a lot better. I ended up in second, I believe.

On Saturday it was Capital Slam, and I slammed, as planned, doing those same two pieces.

I drew the bullet and had to slam first. That is not a good spot and when I did ‘Four-Colour World’ I got a good reaction from the crowd but less love from the judges. I thought it was even worse because the score was initially misreported as 25.2 (instead of 26.2) and I didn’t notice the change. I was followed by a fairly new poet and four BRAND new pots who all (I thought) outscored me. By the end I thought I was in 11th. Turns out I was in 6th.

One of those new poets DID outscore me but she (Zorah Bryant) had to leave at the break so she was dropped from the second round, sliding me in. Now there was a gap to large to make up, but I was just happy to get to do my second piece. FN went over a LOT better, and I closed the gap quite a bit… but still ended in 5th. That’s all good.

I am now tied in 5th in the seson rankings with Colleen Leafloor and Mia Morgan (who won on Saturday). The top 4 are Loh El, Just Jamaal, ArRay-of-WoRds and V.

Next up is the Ottawa Women’s Slam Championship on Saturday… but first I need to try to get through this week without feeling like a zombie.

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

Rusty @ CapSlam ReCap

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

I wasn’t planning on slamming. I had slammed at the last show and I wasn’t working on anything new since I had a feature out in Carleton Place on Friday. So, when the list looked a little light (‘Tis the season…), I was self-pressganged into duty.

Then I drew the bullet. Oh well. That isn’t automatically the kiss of death but the crowd was as yet ‘unmotivated’. I went the same route I did in the Finals last year, blasting out Angst to get the crowd excited. It wouldn’t help my scores but it’ll pick the room up for the poets that follow. In the end, it was only an exceptionally large time penalty by Ray that kept me from finishing last.

The show was strong. V getting the win was pretty awesome. She is pretty new and she needs to allow her confidence to catch up to her poetry and this will go a long way towards doing that. She could be a force at the semis this year.

Just Jamaal’s second piece was intense! I am so glad he snuck into the second round (.1 less would have sunk him) so we could see that. Big piece and it vaulted him from fifth to missing the win by .1!

Then there was the Youth team! I had the great pleasure of letting them know that VERSeFest wants to book them! Mark your calenders for March 1st! (Hey, mark them for Feb 28th to March 4th. The whole week is going to be amazing!)

Now we get a little break as it is three weeks until the next slam but before then we have Once Upon A Slam on Dec. 30th! Be there!


Posted: December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
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This Saturday at Capital Slam was interesting. Our numbers dropped off a LOT. We had about half of what we had at the previous show. I heard lots of little reasons which may have added up to a big reason.

Regardless, I know the next show will have a lighter than normal crowd because so many of our crowd are students and we will be right in the middle of exams and going home for Christmas etc.

It will be awesome, though. I saw the Youth team at CFSW and they were off the hook! They would have looked right at home on the main finals stage, not ‘just’ the youth one.

I had decided to slam this time. I wanted to redo ‘Darwin’s Theory of Revolution’ (soon to be posted), which I did at the semi-finals last year… poorly. I was pretty sure the poor results were due to my lousy performance rather than the poem so I worked it up again. I drew late, which is always nice, and the poem went off beautifully! The rapid, machinegun delivery went smoothly and I had the crowd back on their heels! When I finished I got a GREAT crowd reaction… especially from the other poets. I scored okay… three good scores and two less good scores will often knock you out of the second round as one of those ‘less good’ scores has to count.

In fact (though it was misreported at the event due to someone else’s missed time penalty), I was tied in third with Loh El, behind Ronsense and V.

Then comes the bad stuff. I don’t want to dwell, but there is NOTHING I dislike more than someone hijacking a stage. We had TWO different incidents – one on stage and one behind the scenes. We had one person who asked if she could get on stage as a second sac. I am not going to get into the why but I said yes. (Don’t think I will normally do that. A: We don’t normally have time and B: the show has a certain flow. I don’t like to disrupt that.)

After Tanya Davis (EXCELLENT feature! Go see her on Thursday at the Elmdale Tavern!), we let this person go up and sac.

She was up there for 10 minutes and was still planning to do her poem again, (don’t ask me… that’s what she said…) but Ruthanne went up and gave her the time signal and she got off the stage. She apologized afterwards but how do you ACCIDENTALLY go 10 minutes? She has been around slams… she should know how this stuff works.

Oh well.

That would have been okay except I was ALSO getting grief from some guy who was making a scene at the back of the room. He showed up DURING the feature and said he wanted to sign up. Ruthanne told him that it was too late. She gave him the spiel about coming at 6:30 etc. and that we can’t add people…

He started to raise a stink. “My poem is short. Why won’t you let me on the stage. You claim to be a poetry show… why can’t I do my poem…”

Between Ruthanne and I we must have told him no ten times (or more). He was NOT being quiet and he was a big distraction from the feature. Finally I told him to hang around and we would see what we could do.
Ruthanne said I shouldn’t have done that, but my first concern is the show and I needed to get him to shut up and let people watch the show.

When I had the chance I went and spoke to Sean O’G, who was hosting, and told him that under no circumstances should we let this guy on the mic. He was down.

Then came the 10 minute poem. I was really annoyed at this point… and stressed… and tense.

So, of course, I was drawn first in the second round, with no opportunity to calm down. I did Stroll On and it went well, despite the distractions. I scored decently. In the end I tied with Hyfidelik for second, so that was a pretty good night (behind Ronsense who has now slammed twice this year at CapSlam and won them both. He has become a force!)

When the show was over, we did announcements and thank yous and O’G announced the results etc. and then he ended the show. As soon as he did so that guy was ON STAGE. Sean told him that the show was over and he tried to argue it. Sean held firm and by then people were leaving so he dropped it. He never came and spoke to me.

Look, call me an asshole if you want (it wouldn’t be the first time) but the show is more important than any single poet (myself included). Do NOT make the show about you, no matter WHO you are (and I have no idea who this guy was). That happened twice in the show. There are LOTS of open mics around for you to strut your stuff. If you want to slam, come slam, but you have the same sign-up rules as everybody else. (Ask people like Ikenna and Chris Tse who have wanted to do stuff and I haven’t bent the rules for them.) If the rules are not consistant, then you have a right to complain. Otherwise…

Anyway… as I said, maybe I am wrong and it is time for a revolution…

I hosted Capital Slam this last weekend. Brad is still on the road and Ruthanne had a show out at the Shenkman Center, so this one was on me.

That meant it wa also on me when I forgot to find judges. Sigh.
To my credit, I had other things on my mind. Despite getting a very good crowd (not another sell out, but we had 120 people), we didn’t have a full slate of poets. Amazing how we can go three or so slams in a row where I am bumping people, to a slam where we only have ten sign up.
The lack of poets meant we had no sac, so I was trying to find a poem in my book to read (hosting and being sac is never a good idea, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…), but at the last minute Ibn Najeeb came in. He didn’t want to slam but he agreed to sac and we were all good.

Except I hadn’t found judges. I realized it during the first open micer and found judges faster than I ever have. (“You’re a judge. You’re a judge, You’re…” nobody said no.)

The show was great. Even the time penalty problems were entertaining. (Does anyone forget their poem in a more entertaining fashion than Sean O’Gorman? I don’t think so…)

Then there was Brandon Wint. What an amazing poet and amazing person.

Loh El won, but it my mind he was a little overshadowed by Chris Tse’s farewell performance that garnered five tens… and a 6.5 time penalty.

Next up… Tanya Davis on Dec. 3rd… and I am going to slam at that show!

Rusty’s CapSlamReCapNovEd

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
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A full recap is up at the Capital Slam Blog, as always, but here is my version…

I wrote a new poem. More details about it will be in my next post (when I actually post the piece), but in short… it is a piece that I wrote back in March, prepping for the CapSlam end of season, and then discarded it temporarily. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.
Jump forward some months and after going to CFSW I had some ideas on how to fix that poem up.
I did it. I liked it. I decided to slam it.

I worked on memorizing the piece and was originally planning to slam it on Nov. 4th. Then, with about a week to go, I got really sick. I missed a couple days of work and my memorization schedule was way off. I started to think I would have to wait and do it on Nov. 19th, but then the piece started to fall into place. With a couple of days to go, I had it memorized and just had to start polishing it.
Then I got sick again. A bit of a relapse.

Still… I had it. I was sure of it.

We got to the venue and I did my set-up. Ruthanne was on point, so a lot of the pressure was off. There was a film crew there, doing a piece on Zhomkonto, so I made sure they were okay and then went off to run through my poem.

Crash and burn. I couldn’t get a clean runthrough no matter what I did. I was distracted and stressed and I could get nothing. I fought through until I figured it was the best I could do and went back in for the show.

I argued back and forth with myself about whether I would pull it off or whether it would be a disaster.

I was lucky enough to draw late and I actually ran through bits of the piece while other people were performing (in my head, obviously) but not too much, because I wanted to hear the poetry.

Then I went up.

Perfect. No slip ups at all. The energy was there, the content was there. The crowd dug it. I get the right Ooos and Aaahs at the right points.


By the way… the new piece is called ‘Stroll On’. More about it in my next post.

In the second round I did The Stranger. Now, I KNEW that wasn’t the ‘right’ piece to do. What was scoring well was intensity and The Stranger is pretty low key, but this fits in with my new (old) philosophy. I do the poems I want to do and who cares about the scores. 🙂

I did well again. I got third, behind Synonymous and Loh El. Good company.

Lots of fun and a new poem!

Rusty & CFSW

Posted: October 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I have done some short blog posts about the Capital Slam team being at CFSW over at the other blog, but that is pretty formal… facts, not feelings.

As anyone who has been reading my blog or knows me is aware, I was the alternate for Team Ottawa this year. This was my fourth time on the team and my third time as alternate. I have been on teams across the spectrum. My first team finished last. My last team (before this year) finished first.

I will be brutally honest here (because that is what this blog is for). When the team this year was formed, I took a long look at it and decided it was pretty unlikely that Capital Slam would be taking home the third championship in a row. This is not a condemnation of the skills of these amazing poets, but rather and acknowledgment of the skill across the country and how HARD it is to win.
As the week at the festival wore on, my opinion changed. I started to believe… I mean REALLY believe. The work they put in and the way they were tearing through the prelims…
Then I saw the semi-final bout draw and thought we were a LOCK for the finals.

I was wrong.

I was wrong when I thought we couldn’t win and I was wrong when I thought we were a lock. Neither of those things were true.

The week


We had some problems with the rental agency. First I was told we couldn’t pick up the van until 8 when they actually opened at 7. We could have used that extra hour. Then (despite the reservation made weeks before) there was no van on site and we had to drive to a different location to get it.

This put us way behind our planned arrival time. We cruised in JUST in time and it was only due to Ruthanne and Chris Tse dropping us off and taking care of the hotel that it wasn’t more of a mess. The trip itself was fun. The team had done a lot of bonding and it really showed on this trip. Once again, CapSlam stopped feeling like a disparate group of poets and started to feel like a family.

The first bout included both Montreal (who had two bilingual poets) and Sherbrooke (who had four). The fact that the festival is becoming bilingual is fait accompli and I just have to deal with that. Every time I see judges put up marks judging content that they don’t understand I feel like it is an insult to all the poets involved (including the one being judged). Oh well. I think the large number of francophone poets in this bout really helped them as the judges were forced to deal with it. Montreal won the bout. (2. Sherbrooke, 3. Peterborough, 4. London)
The second bout really kicked things up as it included one of the pre-festival favourites (Up From the Roots) and the surprise newcomer from last year (Edmonton). In what was a shock to everyone present, Up From the Roots did not perform as strongly as expected. The Dwayne/Tomy team pieces (which seemed to be a GIVEN) did not materialize and they finished LAST, all but eliminating them from the competition (or so we thought…)
Edmonton won. (2. Saskatoon, 3. Kingston, 4. Up From the Roots)

We had checked out our bout draw and saw that we had one bout that looked INCREDIBLY tough, and one that seemed about average in intensity. Our goal then was to win the first one (the average one), so we weren’t FORCED to win the other one.

Oh… hip-hop karaoke. Bruce Narbaitz, Hey Ya. Epic.


I went to an interesting panel discussion about touring as a poet. It was hosted by Sherri-D Wilson and included Dwayne Morgan and Brendan McLeod. Informative, though rambling. There were some good nuggets in there.

The bouts that night were all over the place. Some teams were on their second bout while some were on their first, which makes an interesting dynamic.
I was at the first venue all the way through – Ruthanne was acting as Assistant Slam Master at the other venue all the way – and the rest of the team flipped from one to the other.
The 7pm bout that I saw included Saskatoon, who needed a second place to have any chance of moving on to the semis. The big threat in this bout was BeDRoCC from Vancouver, and that played out with them getting the win. Halifax pulled ahead of Saskatoon, though, and we had out first elimination of the festival. (Saskatoon is hosting CFSW next year…)
(1.BeDRoCC, 2. Halifax, 3T. Saskatoon, 3T. Calgary)

At the other venue, Urban Legends was DOMINATING. Word I got back is that they seemed like they were on a finals stage instead of their first prelim. After a strong showing on Tuesday, Sherbrooke did not do so well this time and were also eliminated from the running (this was their first year competing).
(1. Urban Legends, 2. Burlington, 3. Winnipeg, 4. Sherbrooke)

Capital Slam made our debut at 9pm. We had a plan laid out that involved adapting based on where we sat. We really wanted to win this one and it went off like clockwork. We got an early lead and never had to change up the basic plan. In retrospect, I wish we hadn’t used Bruce’s ‘Commodity Fetishism’ yet, as it would have been nice to have it for the semis, but hindsight is 20/20… (1. Capital Slam, 2. Vancouver, 3. Guelph, 4. Montreal) Montreal’s fourth combined with their first on Tuesday made it possible, but unlikely, that they would make the semis.

Sean O’Gorman was a superstar, by the way. He took his performance up to a whole new level on that stage.

At the other venue, London had to pull off a first to have ANY chance at moving on, but it was not to be. (1. Toronto Poetry Slam, 2. Victoria, 3. London, 4. Lanark County)


The SpoCan board meeting happened.

The short of it is that starting next year, poets are required to pay to join SpoCan and are required to be part of SpoCan to perform.

I am VERY opposed to this, yet that is not why I am angry.

I am angry because what I saw in that meeting was a systematic railroading of the rights of the membership. Their refusal to allow discussion and voting on amendments was irresponsible and undemocratic.

I LOVE CFSW, and will always support it, but what I saw at that meeting reminded my of the underhanded tactics I saw while with student government, years back. Even worse, they used the EXACT same tactics as Harper and his cronies forcing through the crime omnibus bill. You have a choice to vote for EVERYTHING, including items you do NOT agree with, or voting for NOTHING so that the entire year is a write-off. Despicable. People forcing through their own agendas because they are convinced they are ‘right’. It is arrogant and selfish. I think they should be ashamed.

This was pretty much the ONLY negative experience of the festival, so that’s good.

Back to the good stuff

We knew the bout on Thursday would be tough but after getting the win on Wednesday, we knew that even if we finished third we would be moving on.

We locked ourselves into our venue and arranged to exchange results with Sean McGarragle, who was at the other venue.
First came the 7pm bout where two heavy weights, Urban Legends and Edmonton, were set to battle it out. When we weren’t counting on was Guelph throwing everything they had out there. They needed a first to move on, and they were going to do everything they could to get it. In the end they just fell a little short. (1. Edmonton, 2. Guelph, 3. Urban Legends, 4. Halifax) Edmonton and Urban Legends were moving on and Guelph and Halifax were done for the year.

At the other venue there were a bunch of bubble teams that had to score well to move on. UP From the Roots needed a first for ANY chance while Vancouver and Burlington both needed AT LEAST a second. (1. Up From the Roots, 2. Burlington, 3. Vancouver, 4. Victoria) Burlington in. Up From the Roots maybe, Vancouver and Victoria out.
Then we were up.
We did the same thing again, having a base strategy and a back-up plan that we didn’t need. We didn’t run away with this one, but we were never in danger on not getting what we needed. The surprise was that it wasn’t BeDRoCC or TPS that threatened our spot, but Kingston. I will readily admit to underestimating them. Period. In the end, we tied for first. (1T. Capital Slam, 1T. Kingston, 3. BeDRoCC, 4. Toronto Poetry Slam) That meant Capital Slam, Kingston, BeDRoCC were all in while TPS was on the bubble with Up From the Roots and Montreal.

In the end it was Up From the Roots that moved on while TPS was the bubble team for the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW. Brutal.

In the other bout we had an interesting situation where three of the teams had received a third in their first bout while the other got a fourth. That meant it was VERY likely that we would have a surprise team in the semi-finals!

It was Calgary. 
(1. Calgary, 2. Winnipeg, 3. Lanark County, 4. Peterborough) The other three were eliminated.

The underground indies were that night and people loved them. Other people. I just found it too crowded and hot. The ‘gladiator circle’ was cramped and… well. As I said, I am in the very small minority.
Johnny Macrae won in a final against RC Weslowski and Ahmed Ali.


The AGM was Friday and was pretty much just an opportunity to talk about our local scenes. After putting forward a motion to allow the AGM to elect the board (downgraded to ‘recommend board elections’), the elections were never even addressed.

The night before I had gone over the list of semi-finalists (which, oddly, were not announced the night before. Strange…) and tried to figure out what draw I would like.

Who I came up with was:

Calgary: No insult meant to them, but they were as surprised as anyone when they moved on. They meant they were less likely to have killer pieces in reserve.

Kingston: Simply put, I underestimated them. Period.

Up From the Roots: My logic was that they would have had to burn their best pieces to get a first in their second bout when they had no reason to save them (since it was VERY unlikely that a 5 placement point team got in. In the end, only one did, and only because there were so many teams that had wildly fluctuating results – for example, NO team got a 1st and 2nd. Also there were two ties which changes the math.) I was wrong.

We got that EXACT draw.

We were feeling pretty confident.

However, as we discussed strategy, for the first time we weren’t all in agreement about what we should do. Our strategy was much less flexible that it had been in the past because of a couple things – we had a couple of poems that we thought HAD to wait to the finals, plus Bruce was losing his voice and one of the poems was going to be taxing on him.

It is through adversity that iron is forged… or something to that effect.

We also drew the bullet, which hurt. Sense-Say went up first and did That Type, Killer poem.

Time penalty.

He has NEVER had a time penalty before and CERTAINLY never had time problems in practice. I was PISSED… but not at him. I was convinced that the timekeeper had messed up. We started timing ourselves at that point.

We were in third after the first round. We needed at least second.

Sean O’Gorman went up next and… another time penalty. Once again, he had NEVER had one in practice. This time, however, we were timing it and it was legit.

We were still in third… by exactly 1 point. The amount of our combined penalties.

Third round we called an audible and sent a team piece up. “A Real Man”.

Time penalty.

In retrospect, I realize what likely happened. It was a BIG venue. I think that affected the team and how they dealt with the crowd. The reactions were louder and just caused small delays through the piece.

That is my guess anyway, because these pieces were TIGHT in practice.
After three rounds we had received 1.5 in time deductions… and were in third by less that that. Up From the Roots was running in first and Kingston was ahead of us by a little more than 1 point.

We called another audible and sent up Bruce and Loh El to do their ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ piece. Bruce’s throat was ratched but he powered through it like a champ.

No time penalty. Decent, but scores but probably not enough.

The only thing we could really hope for at this point was for Ritallin to crash and burn (which is not right to say, because we didn’t actually WANT him to crash and burn… you know what I am saying.)

Instead he did us a different favour. He KILLED it. He dominated the round and made it so we were eliminated by a little MORE than 1.5, so that the time penalties were not the reason we were out. That made the guys feel a little better.

After the bout was over I felt crushed.

It is hard to explain, but I was really starting to think they had a chance. I have stood on that stage, holding the trophy in the air, and I really wanted to share that with this team.

People all around me were congratulating Kingston, and they deserved it, but I just had to get out of there.

I went for a walk and ran into Komi. We talked briefly and then I went off by myself, just trying to pull myself together. When I came back inside I ran into Ruthanne who wouldn’t talk to me because she was trying not to cry herself. I then ran into John Akpata and he helped me a lot.

John: How’s it going?
I shrugged. He took one look at my face and said: No. Don’t you dare be disappointed in these guys.

I realized then they I HAD to pull it together. There was NO WAY I wanted anyone to think I was disappointed in them. I wasn’t AT ALL.

Then I saw them and they were all smiling, laughing and having a good time. They could deal with it. It was just me being selfish… or something.

I was disappointed that they were out but NEVER in them. They are my heroes. They are superstars. I love those guys.

Then Urban Legends was up. They were in against Edmonton, BeDRoCC and Burlington.

What I saw may have been the best bout I have ever witnessed. EVERY piece was amazing! In the end only two teams could move on, however, and Edmonton and Urban Legends were the two teams. I think that result was ‘correct’ but the other teams have NOTHING to regret. All four teams were amazing.

Oh, earlier that day was the ALT SLAM.

Here was my chance to strut my stuff.

Remember my last post where I said that I love to slam but I was no longer going to be so concerned about my scores? Here was my first test.

I came third, behind Patrick DeBelen and Sherry Huang. (Brad Morden came sixth).

In the first round I dropped Moving to Arizona. I was the only poet that did a piece that intense and I discovered that not everywhere is as political as Ottawa. I had a number of people ask me what law I was referring to. I have never had anyone in Ottawa do that.

I was sitting next to Ruthanne and when the scores came back she muttered “you were robbed” and I said, AND MEANT, “I don’t care. I got what I needed.”

The crowd loved it. They APPRECIATED it. THAT is what I needed.

In the second round I did Angst and the response was even MORE favourable and powerful. Lisa Slater tweeted it. I had people (including RC Weslowski and Clint ‘Father Goose’ Wilson) telling me it was their favourite poem of the festival.

RC told me that AFTER the festival.

What a great honour. At that point, who needs scores?

That night we went to a showcase with Brendan McLeod and C.R. Avery singing and doing poetry. Awesome. God damn, but I love C.R. We have plans to record something together but my inability to secure funding has really put me in a bind. I HAVE to get it together…

Also at the show they announced the results from the Poet’s Choice Awards.

I don’t think I have ever been prouder.

Honorable Mention (runner-up) for Most Valuable Poet: Sean O’Gorman.

Well deserved. Look out world, O’G is here!


We finally had board elections. I did not run for anything but one position interested me a great deal. A new position was created (at my suggestion) – National Slammaster. We have had some problems with tournament consistency in the past and this would fix that.

I think EVERYONE knew that there are basically three people who could do that job, and Charles Hamilton and I both backed Sean McGarragle. Almost immediately, Sean said that he considers we three to be a team, so that should be great. I already have some work lined up.

The finals were…

…how can I describe how exciting AND disappointing they were?

Edmonton won and they deserved it. They reminded us what it meant to perform POETRY. Urban Legends performed the best team piece I have EVER seen. Legendary. It was a game-changer. Kingston proved that they belonged on the finals stage and Up From the Roots came second… again. How many times is that?

Still, the problems with sound were very sad. There were poems you could barely understand… from poets who have no problems with speaking clearly.

I was also VERY unhappy that the festival chose to do put the merch out from the teams that were NOT competing that night. I know that my normal pattern (and after talking to others, I am not alone) is to not buy anything all week, and then once I have had everything settle in, go and browse the table to make my choices for the week.

I sold more merch AFTER I got it back, just because I had it under my arm.

(Speaking on which, I sold one copy of my book from the table, rather than directly from me – I would love to know who bought it! If you see this and bought my book from the table rather than directly from me, let me know who you are!)

Then to the after party… which I didn’t care for at all. Last night of the festival, spending time with people you may not see for another year, and they put it in a club where you couldn’t carry on a conversation.

Oh well. I guess I am just old.

So, all in all, a great time. Because I do these sorts of things, I put it in the middle for my personal experience with CFSW.

Back to work now.


Oh, but come out Saturday where Capital Slam welcomes its team back to Ottawa. Mercury Lounge. Doors and sign-up at 6:30.

I was on Friday Special Blend on CKCU this morning and despite a little problem with the track numbering (totally my fault), it went great!

We lived up to the show’s name as we covered a lot of material in the time allotted, from my start as a poet to my inspiration for poetry now. We listened to three tracks from ‘Live at Capital Slam 2011’, which will be released at the October 1st edition of Capital Slam. They were (in order):

Loh El – A Real Man
Rusty Priske – Angst
Sean O’Gorman – Forget the Cartoons

(Apparently we said fuck at least once in each poem… there is a reason we have started calling our team ‘The Capital Fucking Slam Team’.)

(As an aside, we recently had someone ask us to start performing ‘clean’ and stop swearing in our poems. Apparently we are responsible for corrupting him or something – his words, not mine. My kneejerk reaction was to say ‘Fuck you’ because I am juvenile and it would have been funny, but instead I gave him the real answer which is that we don’t censor our poets.)

We talked about my new book ‘Rusty Priske: Trapeze Artist’ and a whole slew of upcoming shows.

Here they are:

Urban Legends Season Opener, feat. ME! – Tonight, 6:30, Carleton University
Once Upon A Slam Season Opener, feat. Daniel Richer – Tonight, 6:30, Mercury Lounge
Brendan McLeod & the Kymeras – Sunday, 6:30, Mercury Lounge
CAPITAL SLAM, feat. Canadian Individual Slam Champion OpenSecret and the release of ‘Live at Capital Slam 2011’ – Oct. 1st, 6:30, Mercury Lounge


Posted: September 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

After not slamming in the season opener, I was primed for this show.

Then I drew #1.


It turned out that John Akpata (the host) hadn’t actually DRAWN any names and just read mine off the top of the list. He realized his mistake before I had reached the stage, so back I went.

I still drew early. #3. I dropped Blue, Black or Red and it felt good. I scored fairly well, getting a 27.8 for the top score thus far.

Then Loh El went up and I dropped to 2nd. Then Blue went up and I dropped to 3rd. Then Sean O’Gorman went up AND KILLED IT and I dropped to fourth.

Half way through the round and I was in fourth. Not good. I worked my less then stellar memory for who was still to come and realized it wasn’t likely that I would make the second round. Bruce Narbaitz and Monique Simonot were both still to come and the combination of talent and a little score creep would make it hard for my to stay in the top 5.

But the next four poets INCLUDING Bruce and Monique went up and I still maintained my precarious position. Now there were only two poets left and they BOTH would have to outscore me to knock me out!

Raffaella went up. She is new to our stage and her delivery was a little hesitant. She read from her paper but the crowd (and judges) dug her words and she netted a 27.9… JUST knocking me down to fifth. Who was still left again?

Mia Morgan. Sigh.

Mia did a solid job and got a 28.0. No second round for me.

Oh well.

Sean O’Gorman ended up grabbing the win. Good show over all.

Lots of stuff coming this week!

TONIGHT: The CapSlam team (Sense-Say, Loh El, Bruce Narbaitz, Sean O’Gorman, Me) are on Monday Night Scribes on CHUO at 10pm.

ALSO TONIGHT: The Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam starts their new season and the Ottawa Library.

FRIDAY: I will be on Friday Special Blend on CKCU at 7:10am.

ALSO FRIDAY: I am featuring at the Urban Legends season opener at Carleton University! 6:30pm

ALSO ALSO FRIDAY: The Once Upon A Slam season opener is at The Mercury Lounge! 6:30pm.

SUNDAY: Brendan McLeod and the Kymeras are performing at Mercury Lounge! 6:30.

Busy week!

Urban Legends

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I am excited to announce that I will be featuring at the Urban Legends Season Opener on Sept. 23rd.

This is really fun for me as I do not do many solo features – most of my opportunities come as part of the CapSlam team or the Copper Conundrum.

I have a 20 minute set… what should I perform? Any requests?

I will be promoting my book ‘Rusty Priske: Trapeze Artist’, so come by, hear some grooves and pick up a copy!

Before that, on Sept. 17th we have Capital Slam. I didn’t get a chance to slam at our opener so I am pretty sure I will slam this time out. The feature will be former Victoria poet, current Montreal poet, Megan Ann Ward! I have seen her a few times at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and I am excited that she will be part of our show.

I have also been booked to feature at Dusty Owl… but that is in March.. Heck, before we get to that we have VERSeFest where Capital Slam gets the honour of presenting URSULA RUCKER!!!

THIS Ursula Rucker.

THIS Ursula Rucker.

THIS Ursula Rucker.


You NEED to be excited about this!