Well, it is over. The 20112 Coupe du Monde de Slam Champion is David Goudreault from Quebec. He was simply perfect, hit all three of his poems with calm, beautiful intensity. The audience loved him. The rest of the poets loved him. He is a good and true champion. Second place looked like it would go to Roberta from Brazil after she scored two 10s during her final poem, only to have Chris Tse from Canada (the guy who knocked me out of the elimination round by 0.1 point!) score THREE 10s with his last poem. And Youness Mernissi came in fourth in the scoring, but first in his elegant skills as a writer. Continue reading →
Paris has a way of swallowing time. It seems like just hours ago that I arrived here on Tuesday morning, and now it is Saturday and the final round of competition in the World Cup of Slam is on for tonight.
And what a final it will be! Roberta Estrela D’Alva from Brazil, 33 years old, six feet tall, a beautiful confident woman who shines with kindness; David Goudreault from Quebec, always smiling, sure of himself and his poetry; Chris Tse from Canada, 21, self-aware and cool in an engaging, friendly way; and Younes Mernissi from Belgium, possibly the strongest poet among us, who puts together words in the way great artists paint pictures — you see what he wants you to see. Who will win? Who will hold their nerve and capture the fire for three rounds? It will be very, very close. But the quiet consensus among the rest of us is that Roberta will be difficult to beat. She is an Amazon warrior with a heart of sunshine.
But truth is, all 16 poets in this competition deserve to be here. 64 poems have now been performed in front of eager and enthusiastic audiences, and not one has been bad. The youngest person in the competition, 20-year old Mathias Bungaard, is the only poet to receive a perfect score of ten twice in the same round. The oldest, 63-year old David Morgan from England, an unreconstructed anarchist from the Old School, spins stories out of the ether and leaves people breathless. The talent is so rich, and the people are so nice — we have become a community. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Well, they weren’t kidding when they called it the Coupe du Monde — The World Cup of Slam Poetry. Now in it’s fifth year, there are competitors here from 16 countries, including Gabon, Brazil, Portugal, Russia and the Seychelles. We are indeed a Rainbow Nation of Slammers.
The whole event is being run by a wiry man with a styled afro named Pilote. He rides around on the narrow, hilly streets of the the 20th arrondissement on a banged-up scooter with a wrap-around roll cage, dashing from venue to venue, always smiling. This is a big cultural event for this part of Paris — there are banners everywhere and a local elected woman politician showed up to help officially get things kicked off in an opening ceremony last night at the Place Frehel. We drank Merlot and cheered. Continue reading →
Well, the day has almost arrived. Tomorrow morning I board an Air France flight to Paris, and tomorrow evening I compete in the first knock-out round of the World Cup of Slam Poetry. The first heat will be a tough one — the United States, Canada, Brazil and Scotland. If this were football, I think I know how it would go. Only two of us will go through to the semi-finals on Thursday. And this isn’t football.
How did I get here? The truth is, by accident. You will recall how engaged I was in the Free Fringe Spoken Word activities last August. It was fantastic, and just as an aside, it is people like Peter Buckley Hill and Richard Tyrone Jones who keep the true spirit of the Fringe alive and burning bright. I decided to go listen to the last Slam of the season — Utter Has Talent — and cheer on my good friend Bram Gieben. The stakes were high — Slam Champion of the Free Fringe, a paid gig in London and a pound of sausage meat. At the last minute one of the scheduled competitors didn’t show up. I was asked to fill in and, well, I won. That led to an invitation to compete in the Scottish National Slam Championships in Glasgow this March as part of the Aye Write Festival. My greatest hope that night was to make it out of the first round. Something strange happened again that evening, though, and I was somehow declared the winner.
So now I am off to Paris. More specifically, the 20th arrondissement, home to the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery where Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Moliere and Jim Morrison all presumably rest in peace. Wikipedia describes the neighborhood as “an old working-class area now in rapid transformation.” Just what it is transforming to is less clear, though they do add, “this gritty area is probably going to be on of your main night-crawling venues.”
Someone named Gwen is to meet me at the airport, but I have no idea where I will be staying. Apparently friends have been asked to stick random poets in their garrets. But I am off for a grand adventure, the sort of thing I couldn’t possibly have imagined just last summer. The World Cup of Slam, 17 nations battling for the crown, and for the first time in the six-year history of the event, Scotland is represented.