As was the case on Tuesday, members of commentary on the experience that provides one of the more interesting perspectives from the night.
"It was my lowest score of the night," noted the judge about a 6.0 that she gave to a Madison group piece by Evy Gildrie-Voyles, Josh Healey, and Danez J. Smith that received a standing ovation in the middle of the bout. The performance was a tongue-in-cheek lampooning of "The Man" and the attitudes about this fabled force in society, a piece that was definitely geared towards playing for laughs. "Well it was awful," she declared, describing the tone of the piece as sarcastic and self-righteous. "It felt contrived to me and if they had done it with sincerity and actually allowed themselves to risk and feel what it is like to be the establishment and don't think any of us couldn't feel the pull at times their piece would have been hysterical, moving and powerful but tonight it was merely a could have been."
Other judges, who gave the piece scores of 8.3, 9.0, 9.4, and 10.0 clearly disagreed, as did the audience. The 6.0 was moot, as both the highest and lowest scores are dropped as outliers for the purposes of calculating final bout rankings, but the judges comments show both the breadth of responses that can be found to a given piece at a slam, as well as the perspective of sitting in the hot seat amidst a very vocal audience.
A detailed report and a photo gallery of this first Madison bout were published by Emily Mills and Phil Ejercito, respectively, for Dane101. The Wednesday night slam between teams from Milwaukee, Durham, Honolulu, and Lincoln was also captured in a photo set by Ejercito, with more scenes from it to be found in an another gallery shot by Steve Furay.
Meanwhile, an Austin Poetry Slam team member who is blogging his experiences at the competition reported on the squad's second place finish to Phoenix on Wednesday at the Brink Lounge. This puts the Texas team in a good position to reach the next round. "If we don't make semifinals," he explains, "we're locked for a spot in the Group Piece finals, because each of our first two nights our group pieces were ranked first." In addition to describing his teammates performances at the bout, he also proclaimed the "sexy chaos" of the Decathlon Slam, a late night event held at the Bartell Theatre.
While shooting videos of the bouts is tightly regulated by the event's organizers with vlog from their hotel that costars the three-time HBO Def Jam poet Big Poppa E.
One poet reported on the nights results for the four teams from northern California. The San Francisco team had the night off after winning on Tuesday, and the Sacramento squad finished fourth, eliminating it from competition. Both the Oakland and Berkeley teams won big, meanwhile, giving all three Bay Area teams at least one first-place finish in the opening rounds. This isn't surprising considering the region has long been a hotbed of poetry slam since its birth.
Finally, a spectator who ventured into the Evjue Stage at the Bartell Theatre caught a bout between teams from New Paltz, St. Louis, Kalamazoo, and Amarillo, and ended up sticking around for the second slam of the evening. "Then the MC asked if anyone was no affiliated with the groups to be a judge," she noted. "There weren't many non affiliated bystanders like myself and so I ended up being a judge."
This bout featured the famed Nuyorican Poets Café from New York City, who finished second behind Denver Mercury Slam and ahead of teams from Albuquerque and Delray Beach, Florida. The newly minted judge explained her approach to scoring:
The night went fast. There were a lot of poems about race, one about love in Texas, two about the Mexican immigrant experience, the pharmaceutical industry and several about god. I'll admit those get old fast. As do the ones where the person talks so fast that you don't have any idea what they are talking about except for the line or two about race relations that they slow down to stoke the crowd. I judged based on creativity, presentation and originality of the poems rather than the typical knee jerk to get a reaction poems. Over all though, I think I liked the group of folks in the first bout that I didn't judge because they were based more on personal stories and experience. I liked those. Those spoke to me and seemed more honest, beautiful and meaningful.
The judge also remarked upon the volume of noise at the slam, as well as her plans to attend the Nerd Slam festival event on Thursday afternoon and hope to attend another bout next year. She's in luck, as the National Poetry Slam is scheduled to return to town in 2009.