An American Girl in Washington

Deaf Poetry Jam

Posted in Uncategorized by AGinDC on 28 August 2010

I keep falling in love with poets.  Maybe that’s why Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni have always been the loves of my life.  Don’t worry FLOTUS, there’s always room in my heart for you.  But Gwendolyn Brooks and Lord Byron get a slice too.

Last night I went to the 6th Annual DC Poetry Festival at Rock Creek Park.  I also learned a hard lesson about following online directions.  The Park site said to take the Metro to Silver Spring and then take a bus to the park.  Since I had no idea where this place was, I followed those directions to a T, so I thought it was odd that the bus was taking me right back towards home!  Idiot.  The damn park is like 2 miles away from the Palace.  I crossed state lines for nothing!  Argh!  Oh well, I guess these are the lessons you learn when you’re new in town.

Anyways, I found out about this Festival in the fabulous WaPo Going Out Guide.  It said The Last Poets were going to be there and, once my heart started beating again, I knew I had to go.  I put it in my iCal and everything.  That’s what makes this story so tragic.

It started like a typical poetry slam.  The painfully loud sound system was a match made in heaven for poets who always feel the need to SCREAM into the mic.  But the first act was Droopy the Broke Baller and he was pretty great.  He’s a teacher and did a hilarious poem called Failin’.  Well, hilarious and sad because it’s true.  After Droopy was an 18 year old Egyptian girl who is very talented but clearly very young and still copying Def Jam’s style.  After hearing the requisite “I hate America” poem (halfway through I wondered what Glenn Beck would think if he was there.  Good Lord.) and a piece “in progress”, I had the same thought that I always do at these things:  In the end, all slam poetry sounds the same.  Well, 90% of it.  And that’s why those 10% get on HBO, it’s hard to make this stuff sound original.

After those two, there were a few more people in between who don’t stick in my mind.  I’m not one of those people who says a poem is “deep” when I don’t understand it.  I trust my intelligence enough to know that if I don’t get a play/poem/performance, it’s probably because it made no sense.  As a theatre major in college, we went to see a lot of off-off-off-off Broadway plays that had no plot, no coherent sentences, and nothing that could be readily identified as music, and yet when we left our professors would inevitably proclaim the performance as “deep” and “interesting”.  Sometimes, if it was really bad, they would even throw in a “thought-provoking”.  For a few years I thought that I must be missing something.  Maybe I wasn’t as smart or talented or in tune as I thought I was.  Then, I finally said something to a fellow student who said, “AG, they only say that shit because they have no idea what just happened and want to sound smart.”  AH-HAH!   So true.  So now, whenever someone says something is “deep”, I just give them the side-eye and keep it moving.

The above paragraph is what I was thinking during some of the poems.  I took notes.

Next in my notes is a reference to an adorable little Dominican Republican high school band.  These kids are cute and will be really good once they hit puberty and replace the instruments that they stole from their junior high band room with the real thing.  But they’re tryin’, and I respect that.

Next was an artist whose name I won’t mention because I don’t want to dis her just because she wasn’t my style.  Also, if I don’t mention her name I can be brutally honest.  Is this wrong?  I don’t know.  But I feel bad.  Anyways, this chick walks up in six-inch heels and a tiny ass jumpsuit and tells us to fist pump for Sarah Vaughn.  Really?  It quickly dawned on me that she thinks she’s Dorothy Dandridge reincarnated.  She’s not.  We were also desperately in need of Simon Cowell.  Just because you grew up hearing that you’re the great great granddaughter of a great jazz musician does not mean talent is genetic.  It isn’t.  Well, maybe with the Jacksons, but not with you.

Other general slam poetry notes that are specifically relevant to this chick:

1.  Just because you talk fast doesn’t mean you’re saying shit.  I talk like Speedy Gonzales and I’ve         never said anything worth repeating.

2.  Contrary to what Kanye might tell you, a few catch phrases does not a rap song make.  Or                   “deep” poetry.

3.  Your outfit and your message (if you have one, which she didn’t) have little to nothing to do               with each other.  Just because you think you look cute does not mean that your verses are                         slammin’.

Nuff said.

After Jessica Rabbit got off the stage we heard from two super talented poets who together make up the Beauty and the Beast tour (I googled for a link but couldn’t find anything).  Them I loved.

Then came a man I’d like to marry, or, at least, I’d like to marry the man he’s telling other men to be, Rodzilla the Blackademic.  Sigh.

Finally, after a few older gentlemen felt the need to delight us with their story-telling talents just because they’re old and important and are allowed to do that sort of thing (they weren’t bad though), the second-to-the-main attraction began.  This is where things got tragic.

The Cornel West Theory sounds like they should be okay.  I mean, I like CW, and I like theory, and if it’s all wrapped up in a slam poetry package, why not?


First of all, one of their dudes was like the black Kramer.  I don’t know how he got his body to contort like that while rapping barefoot on a nasty stage, but he did.  Sadly, his lyrical contortions were not nearly as impressive.  Mostly, I wanted to kill myself.  There were six of them, each more depressing than the last.  To be fair, they were a little like Cornel West: probably brilliant, but so highfalutin’ that you can’t really tell and trying to hard to be hip for you to really care.  I was desperately trying to make it through by reminding myself that The Last Poets were next, but combined with the two hours of opening acts, the raging mosquitos, and the fact that I was searching for my Swiss Army Knife so I could slit my wrists and be done with it, once homegirl started singing what can only be described as a Martian mourning song, I was DONE.  I bounced out of there and caught the next bus to Adams Morgan.

Sorry Last Poets, I’ll visit you on the YouTube.

So, that was my night out.  I love the poetry festival, love that there were tons of people there, love that it was free (yaay taxpayers!).  But, like all slam poetry, it was time to go long before it was over.

See you at the 7th!



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