The Knock-Out Round

Image of a hand painting the word 'poetry' in bright colours on a graffiti wall.

Dear DorkyMum,

0.1. One-tenth. It takes ten of them just to make a single one. A very small number, 0.1.

Five judges. Three rounds. 15 different scores. My highest was 9.8 out of 10. I had three 9.7s.

One-tenth of a point. And that is the difference. I did not make it through the Round of Death. My new friend, Chris Tse from Canada, scored 79.8. I scored 79.7. And Roberta from Brazil — more on her in a bit — came in at 81.2. They are both in the semi-finals tonight. And I will be watching from the audience.

People were hugely kind and supportive. Roberta, who it turns out is a lovely person from a large family, gave me a long hug and cried on my shoulder. Chris actually apologized. At least a dozen onlookers and about half the poets came up and said I deserved to go on. A woman who has helped organize the World Slam every year took me aside and said, in her opinion, I was the strongest poet/performer in the entire competition.

“But, Young,” she said, with real sadness in her eyes, “the truth about slams is the best poets almost never win.”

I wasn’t the best poet/performer, actually. I predict the finals will come down to Roberta from Brazil, David from Quebec and Gabrielle from France. They are all dynamic and intelligent. Their words arrive with sudden impact. They bring light and passion and anger and joy. They are really, really good.

Someone asked if I felt bad. And I just don’t. One-tenth of a point is far too small a number to define a person or a time in their lives. Actually, I feel pretty good. I am in Paris, our favorite city (after Edinburgh, of course.) I have just competed, and competed well, against the best Slam Poets in the world. I have made new friends, and am now going to take the next few days to slow down, sit at some sidewalk cafes and watch this part of the world roll by. It was a long winter in many ways, and for the first time in months, I can feel the sun.

What I do feel is grateful, especially to some people back in Scotland. Jenny Lindsay and Anita Govan were two of the first people to invite me to read in public when I came to Edinburgh six years ago. Bram Gieben spent time with me explaining the mysteries of Slam. And Robin Cairns in Glasgow brought me to the Rio Cafe, and then pushed for me to have a spot here at the World Slams after the Aye Write Festival. And of course special thanks to Jim Ewing, who not only came all this way to cheer me on, but also made me laugh out loud at the Open Mic after last night’s competition by reading his poem about why he hates the France in general and people from Paris in particular!

One-tenth, DorkyMum. So close. But it’s okay. I need all the other nine-tenths to send my biggest love to you and DorkySon. Your Slam DorkyDad will be home soon.

A bientot,



Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

6 responses

  1. It would be interesting to know if any/how many of the competition had been to the playoffs before. Maybe there is a “rookie can’t win at his/her first try” rule…

    You’ll be back…

  2. You’ve made us proud, here in Po-Town, on the other side of the big pond…one of us in the World Slam..who would have thunk it! When you’re back here in a few weeks , we shall have some fun at The Press Room..most of the band will be here for your reading, I stand ready to greet you & share the stage , to hear your stories and give you a big hug..congrats my Brother

  3. Hm, something seems to have got lost in translation, Young – my poem was about my favourite film, which I think I explained. No mention of the French, or the Parisians, only the most fleeting reference to Paris in the sub-title. And not a word of hatred. Wherein the misunderstanding, the introduction in French? the text in Scotch? too much beaujolais? I wouldn’t want perfect strangers – or anyone else, including our new mutual friends – thinking I was a Francophobe. J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris…

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