March 14th, 2007

Poetry Slam

I had no intention of participating in the Poetry Slam at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference. But everyone kept saying how fun it was, so I thought I’d at least sit there and be entertained.

 Part of the reason, I didn’t want to do it is I thought a Poetry Slam meant getting up there and spontaneously coming up with a poem—I mean at the mike. (Small aside. My sister-in-law, who is a professional copy editor/proof reader, say “mike” is correct, not “mic.”)

 Anywhoo, that wasn’t the case here. It was held at a local bar/seafood place. Timbered and funky and casual. Perfect spot. The MC was funny and kept things moving along. We were handed paper and writing implements. And were told we had 20 minutes to write a poem. If you didn’t want to write a poem, there was no pressure. But suddenly (well, okay, three glasses of wine into it) it seemed like fun, so I decided to give it a try.

 You were given about 15 words from a word list (don’t know how they were picked.) As the poet you had to use at least 3 of words, but could use as many you liked.

 The poems ranged from making fun of George W. Bush to a long stream-of-consciousness thing that I don’t think included any of the words to a guy reading his poem as if he were Peter Lorre to a 15-year-old girl with a poem that used every word on the list to an 8-year-old boy reading a poem that actually rhymed! I'd say about 20 people read poems. The words ranged from “rat” to “dream” to “broad” to “tickle.”

 I picked the words whimsy, snow, and tickle, and managed to squeeze in flake and dream. I think this is how it went:

 Is snow a whimsy of God?
Think of it. Crystals as clear as glass
that to our eyes look white with refracted light.

 Think of it. Flake on tiny flake,
shavings of ice
pile into towers and spires
as high as the head of a child.

 Think of it. Tickles of cold on
tongue and eyelash.

Sheer whimsy.
Who but a god could think of such a thing.
And sometimes, like tonight, this night
It feels like sheer whimsy to live in the dream of such a god.

 For this I won a Billy Bass—a singing bass on a plague whose head turns and mouth moves to the tunes “Take Me to the River” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

 It’s terrifying.