Rookie of The Year- Red Wordz, The [SLAM] Poet
Since last Tuesday night, I have been kicking myself in the ass for not posting what I like to call "gratitude posts" on social media. You know, the typical "Thank you so much for blah, blah, blah....*que the shoutouts*..." type of posts. But in the mist of removing my arch muscle from my gluteus maximus (By the way, when I found out THIS was an actual medical term and not just as funny as it sounds, I freaked. I totally thought Gluteus Maximus was a joke), I remind myself I don't have to panic....I GOTS A BLOG TO TELL YOU ALLLLLLLLL about EXACTLY what and how I feel! You know first time experiences are my favorite tales to share. So welcome to last week's adventures in Poetry Slamming!
So what was so special about last Tuesday?
Okay, so first thing's first, if this were baseball we'd call this moment a "double-header." Last Tuesday February 26th, I was blessed with the opportunity to take part in 2 Poetry slams- one as a guest judge for the 3rd year in a row and the other as a contestant for THE FIRST TIME EVER! I have NEVER, EVER slammed before, so you can only imagine all the things that went through my head. BUT.....no need to put your imagination through any type of treacherous nor strenuous exercise, I am here to share EXACTLY what was going on in that noggin.
Though I have served as a judge at many slams throughout my poetic ventures, as aforementioned- this was my first time slamming; so I truthfully had no idea how to tackle this challenge I was about to embark on. I have done like little bullsh!t, local slams among friends and impromptu ones at events, but never actually competed in a real life slam. So I was stoked and nervous all in one body. (Which I find to be a common theme in contrast to some of my other tales about trying new things.)
Left to Right:
AT&T Sponsor Daphne Dilbert, 10Th Talented Poetry Slam Founder Anthony Grisby, Host Butterfly, Guest Slam Judges: Webber Charles, Red Wordz, and Former NFL Player Twan Russell
Registering for the Slam...
So it's a few weeks before the slam and I get a text message from one of my favorite people, Mori Taiye- who is the Host and Creator of Tongues Speaks Open Mic: "I NEED YOU TO ENTER ASAP, SLOTS ARE FILLING UP FAST". Literally, that was it. No questions, no sugar, just raw and BOOM! I felt like her spirit was TELLING ME WHAT to do. And you know what, I was ok with that. If there's one thing I absolutely adore about "Mor" is that she is as cutthroat as they come, but she's as sweet as honey. Easily the Ying to my Yang or the Peanut Butter to my Jelly.
Hesitant, all I replied was, "I really wanna." Meaning, "Thanks, I wanna do this- but not really. I'm too chicken." But then I made an impulsive decision, and I registered! Sometimes my best decisions are made impulsively, so when it comes to my art- I feed that energy.
Next thing I knew all I had on my mind was this slam. I practiced for weeks! I went over my poems over and over and over again. I even asked some experts for their advice. Want me to let you in on a little secret? The main reason I booked my boy Steven Valentine for a RedL!ghTv Interview, was because I wanted to pick his brain about slam poetry. But don't feel bad, I'm not that sneaky....I told him....after the slam. Muahahaha.
I knew if I got him to speak on a major platform, he would provide nothing but candid advice and drop hella gems...and that he did! I ensured to heed to his advice and take note of some of the things he mentioned on RedL!ghTv about slam culture, and I can honestly say...HE WAS RIGHT about pretty much everything. The icing on the cake? I placed RIGHT under him during the semi-finals, coming in 4ourth Place while Valentine made it to the finals with 0.2 more points than me. Ranking next to one of my favorite poets on the scene right now, I already felt like I won. So I think it's fair to say he provided good insight.
Let's Talk Nerves....
There is no denying that I love to perform and once I'm in the zone....I'm in the zone. But one thing remains, and that's no matter how many times I may perform a piece- it's ALMOST ALWAYS nerve-wrecking. I was so focused on staying within the time limit constraints set forth for the competition. One of my biggest weaknesses in poetry is keeping my poems shorter, so imagine having to really CHOP and SCREW it. I knew if I went over my time I was going to look like a totally rookie and dummy because that was one point that was made abundantly clear.
I knew I was being put beside poetic greatness and feared I wouldn't place or move up the ranks through the rounds. But I was confident in my poems and comfortable with my delivery. Once I began practicing and I really heard my sound, my entire outlook on slam changed. This overnight confidence, came from my very own Red Wordz. In the picture above, I am the poet actually performing. Just look at how captivated the audience is. This is the magic that happens when you put your heart into your bars and delivery.
I choose 3 of my most hardcore poems to perform. (FUN FACT: My favorite poems are the ones where I talk a lot of sh!t. Just feels good to unapologetically express yourself.) All of my poems were of different topics, a different message, and each had a different delivery. The biggest challenge was deciding which poem to use for which round. You only get one shot to impress the judges, so every time I stepped to the mic, I ensured to give it EVERYTHING I had in me.
Placing in Semi-Finals:
If I told you I was excited to make it to the semi-finals, that wold be an understatement. Every round when the judges would call which poets are making it to the next round, my heart will jump a little bit. It was a cross between disbelief and excitement. We're talking battling for some serious Ca$h here! $500 for first place and $200 for second place. But the $chmoney was never my motivation; all I wanted to do was prove to myself that I can do this and boy, did I get so much more than that.
The competition was fierce.
I was up against some of the COUNTRY'S top poets and veterans in the game. Even last year's winner, Michael J. McCain competed in the slam. Making it into the semi-finals over HIM was the greatest feeling ever. Not only because he is a POETIC GENIUS and the current Tongues Speaks Poetry Slam Champion, but because he's one of my all-time favorite poets as well. In fact, Micheal was one of the first poets who opened my eyes to poetry slam culture- in the Pompano area. If you woulda told me 3-4 years ago that I will be battling him at a local poetry slam, and place over him into the Finals, I would've laughed at you and proclaimed that to be a fantasy. Welp, looks like my fantasies are becoming reality.
Another poet who I ranked next to was QuickThePoet, another South Florida veteran and popular name amongst the poetic community. He and I placed Top 5. I literally beat him by 0.1, but it wasn't enough to put me in the finals. As aforementioned, Valentine had me by 0.2 and placed in finals to battle for the Ca$h Prize. It was neck to neck.
I still can't believe I made it as far as I did. Here I was freaking out as the weeks got closer and closer, and I totally nailed it my first time! The fear of failure, being new to this space, and the ounce of intimidation from battling the other PRO-ets almost halted my participation. But I couldn't let fear of the unknown stop me from experiencing new things.
Overall, I was proud of myself for going against my hypothecial fears and excelling at something new. This was my very first poetry slam, and to place in third place feels like a victory in itself. I was standing besides greats- Steven Valentine who tied for 2nd Place, one of my all-time favorites bringing that RAW, Northern flava; representing for the ladies and one of the Country's Top poets representing the South- Eccentrich also tied for 2nd Place; & last but not least Ed Mabrey coming in the top spot, who is one of the Top Slam Poets Worldwide. I'm standing next to them....let that sink in.
Ed Mabrey- 1st Place
Eccentrich Richardson- 2nd Place Tied
Steven Valentine- 2nd Place Tied
(Left to Right)
As a performer, I just love to perform. Slam Poetry Battles are far more than that. Not only are you being judged for your work, but you are also trying to out-perform your opponents poem with every new piece you spit. This was nothing short of a dope experience. I would so do this again! In fact, sign me up for the next slam that comes my way! Now I've got bragging rights, and I'm coming HARDER!
This is #aFrankieTale....get a peek inside my head!
Tongues Speaks Poetry Slam Photo Creds: Rae'Chelle Robinson