This was published in 1998 in issue 4 of Voices from the Well when we were young as so were the slams in Minneapolis. There was a lot of animosity between the slams and the open mics and this was towards the beginning of that animosity.
Slamming Poets - Post Kerouac
People who don't know each other shuffle scared, proud or crippled into some room...some thinking that
Laureate status is long overdue...some are curious...some bored, some are simply mistaken...and maybe there is even a poet in the midst...or the real potential for one to surface--a delicate heart in the non-participating audience that becomes calm, honest, and insightful once the Slam is done...
But the Event will happen as scheduled...poetic presence or not.
"Judges are selected at random"...the spokesman announces as he selectively scatters smiles around the room...and it really doesn't seem to matterw ho will hold up the point cards:
It's about the mood of the judge...which more often than not is stimulated by something somewhere between superficial humor or sex...with a touch of the bizarre...and the narcissistic rush of power they get when it's time to grab a 5 or a 1...to dangle over someone's vulnerability.
Some gulp beer before it starts...some sip coffee...water--each contestant has a personal preference for liquid courage...and there is more shuffling--and often it feels like Ed McMahon might materialize at any second to claim his status as patron saint of poetry slams.
And the first reader rises to read...and a false hush covers the shallow banter...and someone who wants to be overheard whispers...THIS MIGHT BE ANOTHER YEATS...YA NEVER KNOW...
And the initial reader on stage adjusts the microphone...fumbles through his hastily accrued stack of papers...lets out a frustrated grunt...closes his eyes...picks a crumpled yellow sheet...smiles...and mutters into the microphone with ferocious intensity:
and reads something like this:
MOON ME, MY MOON!
I WAS WOUNDED BY THE
IT FELT SO CLOSE TO ME
THAT I NEARLY CALLED 911.
(then he tilts his head and says a sweet) Thank you.
And in the semi-circle of once hopeful faces surrounded the reader, one notices the non-verbal reactions:
*an old man lowers his head onto the table--no one knows if he is meditating,
nauseous, or just resting until it's his turn
*someone else clenches a fist
*someone's mouth hangs open
*someone moves quickly through the area--going to pee