Learning is earning… even when we bomb.
I attended my first-ever poetry slam last night. Something I have wanted to do for years. I put it all out there; I tried hard … but my work didn’t make it past the first round. Even lovesick teenagers lamenting how wrongly they were treated by some bygone lover scored higher than me.
Should I quit writing? No. I should focus.
Here’s what I mean…
The poem I chose to lead with (and end with) is a bit heavy. It speaks of how easily it is to get gobbled up by relationships, jobs, society–and end up trapped, unable to get free. The poem begins, “I have been eaten by a wolf. You cannot see me…”
It’s a bit deep for many folks. And the 20-something judges, especially, didn’t seem to have a clue about what I was saying. It wasn’t their fault, though. It was mine. I could have focused in on the audience, maybe included some preamble to set the situation.
I was speaking to people who came to be entertained that night. Most of them young rappers. Big lesson learned: Know your goal, and be sure it is clear to those to whom you are trying to communicate that goal.
And… you can’t be everything to everyone.
Here’s the poem that began my poetry slam endeavors:
I have been eaten by a wolf, you cannot see me.
But, Perhaps you can hear me speak from inside the beast
if I try. I will try.
There are others here… This wolf is voracious
he seeks day and night to devour every fool he can.
Sometimes the wolf dresses like a woman, sometimes like a man, sometimes like an EMPLOYER, sometimes like your own MOTHER…
By the time you realize you are being eaten it is
Almost Too late.
We try to make the best of it here. We tell one another about “some day.” We sing songs and hold hands and pray. God, how we pray.
Here is our dilemma: The wolf is ravenous and bold. His yellow wolf-eyes are greedy. His appetite is never satisfied. Never. He stalks day and night. He never sleeps. Never. Even if we were able to escape,
somehow escape, He would Pounce without MERCY
His wolf-teeth dripping wolf-saliva fangs into our flesh
Bleeding furious wolf-feeding his friends gather
like hyenas and lions and ugly horrible
creatures unseen would immediately devour, destroy, die.
If… If you can hear me, friend, then I ask only one thing please…
do you know a Wolf-SLAYER?
Okay… so I can see why that poem might not fly in a rap contest. Later, though, the slam director told me several audience members told her they hoped I would be back next year to try again.
Focus is the key, Don. Live and learn.