Letter from the SlamMaster: Where’s the Nats Team Season?
WB patrons and poets,
We’ve just released our 2014 schedule, and while a number of shows and slams are slated, there is one change of note: there is no 2014 National Poetry Slam team season. This change was significant enough that it required some address. After all, we’ve consistently sent teams to NPS since 2001!
As anybody who comes to our shows knows, poetry slams are only a part of what we offer at WB from week to week. Our show has always been an open mic first, and that’s been a guiding principle for the kind of shows we do overall. We even use it as a kind of gauge of the success of that philosophy over other values and tools, regularly putting up well over 25-30 poets per week for open mic to packed rooms, while slam participation has waned in the last couple of years.
The ebb and flow of interest in Slam isn’t anything new; investment in Slam from poets and audiences waxes and wanes everywhere given enough time. Such is the nature of tools. At the same time, WB has never been a house built with just one tool, and the Slam tool was showing some wear and tear.
Slam isn’t meant to exist for poets alone. It exists to create a relationship between the art of poetry and an audience. When it doesn’t serve that purpose or, as is the case with WB, when other things serve that purpose better, things should change. In the past I’ve fought against that impulse where the Slam is concerned. As a former president of the national non-profit that runs the national competitions – Poetry Slam, Inc. – I would. Slam has done great things for this city. But other things have proven to be equally and more effective at the root of why we instituted the slam at WB, and I’m all about throwing more energy and resources into those things rather than the one thing that only 3 or 5 people benefit from in any given year. (Plus, I’ve got one really big trick up my sleeve for next year that will make trying out for Nats look like a lark.) So I made a decision to sit out a year and see how things go. We’re having what my more sports-savvy friend Beverly has been calling a “rebuilding year.”
None of this means we won’t send a team in the future. Personally, I love slamming, and I love slamming at Nationals. I want to be on a team again. And as you can see, we will still be sending poets to national competitions (iWPS and WOWps), and those seasons are unchanged. And if you were at the show a week ago, you know we’re not above having a slam on the spot when it feels like it could be fun. So Slam isn’t disappearing at our show; it just has to ride shotgun for a while.
Thank you all for yet another incredibly successful year of poetry. We have the best audience in the world, and next year is going to be our best year yet, promise.
SlamMaster, Writers’ Block Poetry Night