First things first: if you have not read the brilliant HYPERBOLE AND A HALF story about dogs and moving, you will probably not understand my references. I will give you two minutes to go read and laugh and possibly pee your pants.
Everyone read it? Good? Okay, let's continue.
So, for those of you who don't follow my "normal" twitter, it may be a surprise to learn I do slam poetry. Most weeks I stand up in front of (semi) willing audience members and perform something I've written. Usually about myself. Because, simply, that's how I roll.
I really enjoy this for a number of reasons: a) I get a chance to write, b) I get a chance to perform, and c) a lot of my favorite people do this, so I get to see them as well. Hopefully I can string together a slam poetry sampler in the coming days so everyone else can enjoy it, but patience is a virtue so you'll just have to wait.
So in our special slam poetry circuit, you have to earn a certain amount of "points" to qualify for the team. These points come from, you guessed it, winning the slams. There's like nine or ten of them and you get points just for making it to fourth place and higher. Sort of kind of easy ish. I had slammed once and not done well - that is to say, I did not think I did well. And when I think I do not do well in something, I swear off all human input and prefer to cry to my stuff dog and turtle when I'm home.
Thus, a few weeks later, I decided to slam again. My two friends who usually help me prep poems were both busy the couple hours before, so I ended up by myself in a practice room in one of the dorms.
And it started off easy enough. I did theatre in high school, so I know how to practice a monologue, which is similar to practicing a poem. It's equal parts having clear speech but also clear emotions. My attempt was to memorize at least two of the ones I wanted to slam and then practice all the others.
I practiced poem #1. I had it almost completely memorized and ran it well. Good.
I practiced poem #2. It was a lot shakier than I intended. Lots of false starts. I tried three or four times, then stopped.
I practiced poem #1 again. Then this one got shaky. I couldn't understand why words were seeping out of my mind. (Usually I'm fantastic at memorizing, but Brain was not having that shit.)
Poem #2 again. Frustration.
Poem #3 adds to the mix. This one I hadn't ran in several weeks, but foolishly thought I could just magically try and have it memorized. Spoiler: I didn't. Other spoiler: I was now certifiably Upset.
Poem #2 again. Nope, getting worse.
Poems #4 and #5? Not even having it.
And then, to try and get my confidence back up, I went for #1 again.
And completely, completely dropped it. I've had that poem memorized since I wrote it last April, and I could barely get through the first three lines.
It was here that I laid face down on the table in the practice room and commenced with the Simple Dog attitude.
Few times in my life have I ever related to something more.
I simply could not let myself practice any more. I peeled myself off the table and found myself talking to one of said slam friends. After a long bit of blathering about how terrible my poetry is and how awfully I was going to do at this slam, she stopped me mid-sentence.
"All this negative energy? That's not going to get you anywhere." She plucked at the air around me, as if collecting spiderwebs. "You need to have a better outlook or you won't do well."
I know she meant slamming. But I also realized this was sort of how I was dealing with my entire life. As much as sitting in one place and whining may /feel/ better, it doesn't. I took a deep breath and resigned myself to this.
After chugging two bottles of Gatorade and a chocolate milk, I signed up for the slam. I had no choice - this was one of my last three options to get any points. I couldn't write it off as being stressed any more. I felt as though I was walking headfirst into the wind.
So, usually a slam has eight people. After the first round, it skims down to four people, then after the second round it goes to two. But only four people had signed up for the slam. I sat in my seat and realized that I was guaranteed at least one point. I could get up there and quack for three minutes and I would still be closer to qualifying.
No, I did not get up there and quack.
(Yes, I really really wanted to.)
But I did understand that I could have...fun. The pressure of making it past the first round was gone, so I could just have practice with an audience.
And holy man kaboodle did that just change everything.
I ended up doing three of my favorite poems and placing second. In all honesty, I didn't care if I came in fourth. I was happy with how each poem came out, and that was all that mattered.
I've done a lot of waiting nineteen seconds then whining until the problem goes away lately. I've done a lot of swearing off people's advice and instead feeling sorry for myself. And it's getting pretty old. It's all fine and good to deal with problems in different ways, but I'm tired of pretending like mine aren't doable.
Sometimes, I guess, you just need to take the stage.
Labels: rambles, slam poetry, writing