Saturday, January 5, 2008

First Thursdays Poetry Slam @ Hawaiian Hut

Last time I went to First Thursdays Poetry Slam it was to watch my friend Mista Micah of the group Local Boyz Eternally perform. But for some drugged out reason, I chose that night to confess my closet queer love to him on stage (in drag), and I was so paranoid on pot, I couldn't relax or even sit with him and his friends. It's not like he didn't know, or even gave a shit (his brother's muffy), but I was so stuck on stupid it was embarrassing and idiotic. I haven't gone back since. But not out of shame. I used to go a lot, and perform "in character", luckily getting a few laughs. But I haven't written anything worth reading in so long, I didn't wanna make ass or bore no one. I'm not that attention-starved. Plus I kinda got over hearing all the (no offense) love letters to and/or eulogies for hip hop; the "this poem is for insert name of victim of society here"; and the "I'm not your Asian love doll" laments... I needed time away to miss it, and now I won't miss another one if I can help it.
It was so cool. Inspiringly understated. "Dressed down" I was able to blend into the crowd that surprisingly filled the venue rather quickly on a weekday night. Being the first Thursday of 2008, I'd expected a lotta ballyhoo, but I guess with all the holiday hoopla, everyone was too distracted to make a big deal about it. No pretense, no bombast. But it was a rather full and diverse crowd of hip hop heads, stylish lesbos, and assorted normal people, excitedly anticipating the show.

I was lucky to get a seat upp front, sharing a table with a few strangers. There was a few artists painting and drawing on canvases at the edges of the stage, while DJ Toki of Sisters in Sound played seemingly random songs that proved a precursor to the mix of performers to come....
Energetic and sexily silly host, Kealoha humbly welcomed the crowd, and asked for 5 judges and 1 scorekeeper from the audience, gave them their numbered cards and quickly briefed them on what to do. Then without much ado, the show soon began....

First upp was a high school girl, who sweetly delivered something about something. I forget. She wasn't bad, but paled in comparison to the humour and insight of the next guy, Julian. He apparently had some fans, who responded to his ramblings as he intro'd his "Super Poem". It definitely lived upp to it's name. Funny, punny, and relevantly irreverant.

He was followed by a spunky punkish dyke who had got some hoots from the crowd as she graciously praised Hawaii for helping her haole homo self become confident and self-realized. After her was an old "punker" with a mohawk, Zappa T, and spiked rubber slippers. I forget his poem, but his mother had recently passed away, and when he said it was the first Christmas he didn't get anything for her, I got all teary-eyed.
An interesting character who almost lends himself to caricature is Sela (I don't know if I spelled it right, but Kealoha pronounced it "Say La" kinda like the Lionel Richie song). He wasn't mockworthy though, and his performance was pretty powerful and lyrical in a very Dark Continent via the Sandwich Islands kinda way. Almost a comedic messiah, he was the only one who was enthusiastic about the New Year. It was rather weird though, when he told the audience they were already perfect and couldn't become better, nor should they try. Like, if you're still trippin' on something from last year, you're trapped in the past, so get over it and move on.

One performance I wish I'd recorded was Jesse Lipman's. He was the guy who started all this competitive poetry business here in Honolulu, with his Wordstew events a few years back. I've acted obnoxious and stupid around him enough to hang my head when he's near. I think he's forgiven me, but I never stop punishing myself. Jesse has this kinda urban vibe without wiggerin' out on your ass, and makes you laugh and think about the world and the way we live in it. This night he teased the ego-feeding imperialistic names of SUVs ("Safari" and "Explorer"), without insulting the soccer moms or even sumo wrestlers who might need to drive one.
Mrs. Armstrong (I didn't catch her first name, but she's a teacher so I think it's okay to call her by her surnmame) looked like a possible soccer mom or other regular caucasian female. I didn't envy her having to follow Jesse, nor did I expect her to fully outshine him, but WOW!!! She told us she taught young kids, and wrote the piece for her students. I'm so dumb for being a perfectionist and not wanting to record her reading halfway, but I guess that'll be my first regret of 2008. She started off apparently acting like she was talking to her classroom. Something like "Ok kids, today we're gonna be reading"... then in a young whiny voice, "But I hate reading", and that just set her off. The rest of the poem was an angrily hilarious tirade about how she couldn't believe someone could hate reading. She blamed teachers for making it boring, and even made fun of herself. "I'm not smart. I can't even tell my Right from my Left...The hokey-pokey is my nightmare." That last line was my favourite quote of the night.
A few eaders later, Kealoha introduced the night's featured poet, Jon Sands from New York City. He was refreshingly not ghetto, lacking the cliche East Coast ebonical intonations in his voice. And he thankfully wasn't a hipster either, sparing us the irony of silly clothes or a cool haircut. His myspace page said he's a swinger, but even though his second poem was about jerking off, he didn't force any sexual imagery or politics on us. His stuff was subtly subversive, while still straightforward. And he wasn't all aggressive and shit, instead inviting people to come talk to him, and buy or barter for a CD or book of his writings.

One guy who I really got into, and would have invited into me, was Tui Scanlan. I have a feeling he's related to my friend Malosi. Tall, dark, and handSamoan. Same eyes and smile, but hotter hair. He brought back all the fantasies I had about Malosi which I'd suppressed since I'm only into anonymous sex with straight guys. With him I could be oofing Malosi as if turning back time 10 years before we knew each other. Just the thought makes me feel younger. Anways, I never heard that band Angry Samoans, but Tui mighta been reciting an a capella version of one of their hits if they were haole-haters. He was like the proverbial restless native; and although I could feel his pain, I wanted to feel something else, even if that hurt too.

The night was broke into 2 rounds, the top 3 scorers from the first, going on to the second with a clean slate. Mrs. Armstrong and Sela had the top two scores at the end of round. Bridget Gray, a regular favourite was also in that top 3, but she left early. I would have taken stills and video of her, but when she hit the stage, she handed me her camera and told me "you're gonna be taking pictures tonight". I don't even know her, but I never say no to Black Girls, even if they're just half Black. I should make a shirt that says "I do it all for octaroons."

Anyway, the next highest score of round one was this cute blonde girl (sorry hunny, I can't read your name in my notes), who read a piece about how all women are beautiful, even if you don't wanna sleep with 'em. So Blondie read first in round 2. Not bad, but her shit was kinda too serious to become the crowd favourite. Next upp, Sela did some more shamanic shenanigans.
But Mrs Armstrong was the clear winner. At first I thought we were gonna get preached to when she started singing some kinda hymn. Further confusing was how she said "I came out to my mother on a Sunday afternoon." But she didn't mean she was gay, which a quick glance around the room revealed all the lezzies were hopeful of, as they eagerly watched and waited. No, Mrs Armstrong came out as a Christian. After we figured out what she was talking about, it got kinda heavy. She poked fun at her "liberal" uppbringing, and mom's open heart yet closed mind. It was personal but not preachy, and proved that not all "religious" people are brainwashed or bigoted.

I loved it, 'cause she made me realize that I had judged Mrs A by the way she looked at first. Plus, had I known she was into the Bible, I would have mistakenly assumed all this other shit about her. See how I am?
I wish I was in Mrs Armstrong's class. I need to be around someone who blows out all my preconceptions. Needless to say, she won the monthly booty of $100, and I went home and geeked out with some slutty friends online. (doug upp)

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