Thursday, July 20, 2000
Such a mad frenzy of word-sculpting has not been seen since the heyday of Henry Miller as what was witnessed last weekend at the West Coast Slam Poetry Championships in Big Sur.
A dozen teams started out Saturday fresh as daisies, their hearts and minds pouring out razor-sharp poems in three-minute increments. By Sunday, only four teams remained under the redwoods of the Henry Miller Library: Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the team from the SlamAmerica tour bus.
Slam poetry is a mix of rap, spoken word and performance, and is generally raucous, emotional or political. Each poet gets three minutes to speak their piece and five randomly picked audience members judge them on writing and performance.
Salinas host MC Garland Thompson got the finals rolling about an hour late--this is Big Sur Time, remember--with a crowd of almost 250 people enjoying the sun on the lawn. Four poets on each team read in each of four rounds, with many touching moments. Only a few scored perfect 10s, including a young fellow from SlamAmerica who got three for a stunning piece about music and Beethoven's deafness.
Other crowd-pleasers included a transgendered poet from San Francisco who tore into a man who confronted her on a Hollywood curb, and a Seattle poet who told how his best friend died in his arms from a gunshot wound.
Strong words from all, but the group from San Francisco defended its national title and won $1,000 and a trip to the National Slam Championship in Rhode Island.
Garrigus, Get Your Gunn
We got an e-mail! C. Kevin Smith of Monterey has nominated Thom Gunn for the post of California poet laureate. Gunn, who teaches at UC Berkeley, is a British expatriate who has lived in San Francisco since the early '60s. He's published more than 30 books of poetry, the most recent being this year's Boss Cupid. He also received a MacArthur genius grant a few years ago. If Gunn isn't suited for the post of laureate, we don't know who is.
For those who haven't been paying attention, in the July 6 issue of the Weekly, we appointed ourselves independent counsel and presented evidence against California's current poet laureate, Charles B. Garrigus. ArtiFacts is founding a grassroots guerrilla movement to unseat the venerable Garrigus, on the grounds that he's poetically unfit for office. Impeach Garrigus! Send your nominations for his replacement (living poets only) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burnin' Renaissance Love
There are still tickets available for two concerts by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble, Chanticleer. For its contribution to the Carmel Bach Festival, Chanticleer performs a program called "Ardo d'Amore," which means, "I burn with love."
As you might guess, these are love songs, but no ordinary love songs; they're written by composers who were inspired by the eloquent love poems of 16th-century Italian literary greats Giovanni Battista Guarini and Torquato Tasso. Guarini and Tasso were infamous rivals renowned for their ornate, passionate poetic imagery.
Chanticleer, which draws standing-room-only crowds for its Christmas concerts at the Carmel Mission, hasn't been resting on its laurels. Before the group arrived in Carmel for the Bach Festival it sang its way merrily through Mexico, Latvia, Estonia, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Austria.
The concerts are at Sunset Center Theater at 8pm on Monday, July 24 and Monday, July 31. For tickets call 624-2046.
--Tai Moses and Catrina Coyle