Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aug. 28th Reading in Atlantic City (Dante Hall)

On Wednesday August 28th at 7PM I'll be one of the featured poets, along with Jeffrey McDaniel. This is going to be the hottest reading of the year. Hands Down. Jeff is an amazing poet and a very entertaining reader. If you've never been to a poetry reading in your life, then make this your first. I guarantee you'll have a great time and be amazed at what can be done with words. Some of you may be familiar with this article that Jeff wrote about me for the Poetry Foundation. I first met Jeff twenty years ago in the Fall of 1993 at a bar in DC called "Fifteen Minutes". It was DC's first poetry slam venue and I had heard that one could win $50 for reading a poem. I didn't know quite what a "poetry slam" was, but I was pretty sure I could win it. As the previous week's winner, Jeff was the judge that night. At 15 Minutes they had the crowd cheer for each poet and the judge decided which poet they cheered loudest for. There were 8 of us competing and I rapidly advanced to the Final Round. My opponent was a tall leggy blonde whose day job involved dancing with less and less clothes on. The bar was packed that night and 85% of the patrons were white guys in their 20s and 30s. She went first, as soon as she said the word "suck" in her poem, I knew I wasn't going to win. Her poem wasn't bad, but mine didn't matter. I hit the mic and rolled out the big baritone, I might as well had been reciting in Cantonese. At the end it was closer than I thought, but she won. Jeff pulled me aside and immediately began apologizing, he told me he thought my poem and performance was much better, but the crowd was louder for her. I agreed and told him it was cool, but he kept insisting it wasn't right. To make things right, he invited me to come out to George Mason University, where he was a grad student and editor of the literary journal Phoebe, to do a reading. I told him he didn't have to do that, but he was adamant. I accepted and thus began an amazing twenty year journey of art and friendship. Jeff had a well earned reputation for being wild and crazy and talented. I came back to 15 Minutes and won a subsequent Slam, which allowed me to compete for a spot on the second ever DC Poetry Slam team that was going to compete at the National Slam in Asheville NC that year. Silvana Straw was the reigning DC poetry Slam Champion, with Jeff a close second. Another amazing poet I met there, Jane Alberdeston, was also a shoo-in for the team. That meant the rest of us were basically fighting for one spot. That spot was mine, nobody was going to keep me from it and on the night of the team competition I was neck and neck with Jeff for the second spot. Jeff wound up just edging me out for second place. Jane inexplicably decided to read a new piece for her final poem and ended up not making the team with Andy Fenwick grabbing the final spot. That summer we went to nationals and although we didn't win, we made the Finals and put DC on the national poetry slam radar. In one of our performances Jeff debuted his legendary poem "The Jerk" and ripped off his shirt mid-performance, given that he had the physique of a middle-aged man, it made quite the stir. There are a millions stories I could tell about traveling and reading with Jeff all over the country, but you'll have to come out to Dante Hall on the 28th of August at 7PM to hear them. Be there, trust me, whatever else you want to do, you don't want to miss this reading. Who knows, maybe Jeff will disrobe one time for old times sake . . . Here is Jeff reciting a love poem for the woman who is now his wife. And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon.)
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