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September 05, 1996 - Image 27

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-05

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12 - The Michigan Daily Weeke d Ma=aine -Thursday, September 5, 1996

The Michigan DailyWeekeni Maga2

National Poetry Slam champions nation's best

By 4&se Harwin
Daily Music Editor
I hate poetry. Or at least I did. But wvithin just a
few minutes, the 1996 National Poetry Slam
changed all my ideas, prejudices and overall con-
tempt of the genre. Held in Portland, Ore., this
year's championship was a treat not to be missed.
The best poets and teams from all over the country
were put together for four days of poetry, ranging
from obscene to thought-provoking, and covering
subjects from abuse to supermarkets. A wide
rand, indeed.
The Slam process in itself is an interesting one.
The Slam is the brainchild of Chicagoan Marc
Smith, who in 1984, found a way to encourage an
audience to actively respond to poetry. Smith felt
that far too many poetry readings were losing (or had
lost) their passion for performance, and that the
poets had forgotten an audience existed on the other
side of the microphone. He
started his own readings at
the Get Me High Lounge, Fast and
letting members of the audi-
ence "score" the poems from this year
one to 10, Olympic-style. By s
staging his readings s com- am pro
petitons, the audience felt of
empowered to react to a
poem (usually by comment- e
ing on the judges' scores) e
and the poets started to read p ror
to the audience, not at them.
Now at The Green Mill every
Sunday night, the Slam is one of the most popular
shows in Chicago.
Over the last 10 years. Slams have spread across
the country faster than athlete's foot. A loosely orga-
nized performance poetry circuit has emerged in
over 35 North American cities,. and Portland, this
year's host, was not immune. In 1993,. Jeff Meyer
moved from Chicago to Portland and brought the
Slam with him. The first year was a lean one, though
afte& two moves the Portland Slam has become
extremely popular, with its audience increasing from
30 to 150 members per show. Truly, the Slam expe-


rience is now getting the attention it so richly
Perhaps the most-asked question by newcomers to
the Slam is, "How exactly does it work?" After every-
body is seated, five judges are picked at random from
the audience. After each poet performs his or her
piece, the judges hold up score cards with numbers
ranging from one to 10. The top and bottom scores are
then dropped, leaving the middle three scores for a
total between 0 and 30. At the end of the competition,
the total of each team's four poets determines who
won the bout. After three nights of competition in the
National Slam setting, and an elaborate ranking sys-
tem, the top four teams and sik individuals will
emerge to compete in the finals. The process is again
repeated that night to determine the 1996 National
While there are many rules to follow for per-
formance poetry, a few of the most important
ones during the Slam
s are:Each poet has three
uIous, minutes to perform one
> j piece; Poets must present
s NatrIonai their own original work;
Competitors may not use
ided props, music or costumes;
Multi-voiced team pieces
are allowed; and Poets
should check their egos at
the door.
ices .Fast and furious, this
year's National Slam pro-
vided some of the most
energetic performances the attendees had ever
seen. Held at four different venues, each night.
was more crowded than the prev ious one had
been. Starting August 21, the Slam began at 7:30
p.m.with music provided by a different artist each
night. Then, at 8 p.m., the real action began. Each
night contained two bouts, with three different
teams competing during each bout. For those of
you who aren't math majors, this worked out to
approximately six teams a night.
And for insomniacs, late-night open poetry
readings could often be found at several other

explanatory. In addition, these events
were open for anyone to participate,
with hopefuls signing up about a half-
hour before the start of the readings.
First, it must be mentioned that there
were 120 poets performing. Then, it
must be said that they represented 27
cities from the United States and
Canada, spanning the map from our
own Ann Arbor, home of the 1995
Nationals, to the Ozarks. There were
self-educated poets like DJ Renegade,
an individual finalist, and teachers like
Taylor Mali, another individual finalist
and a member of the winning
Providence, R.I. team. There were P
grandparents and college students, a
true sampling of the melting pot of our
But the finals were what really
brought the cream of the crop, along
with audiences and other poets,
together. As stated before, only four
teams made the cutoff to go on to the
finals, along with only six individual
members, who either came from cities
without a team or had received the
best scores during the earlier bouts.
The competition was stiff. Each round contained
four poets, each one performing very different
types of poems. Very rarely did one poet's mate-
rial appeal to all five judges. making the judg-
ing, at times, irritating to the audience. As with
nearly all slams, one judge, just to be different,
will consistently giv e
extremely low scores to all 1996 Nat
the poets. Knowing this, the Poetry Sl
process of throwing out the I
low and high scores makes Individual Compe
obvious sense r 1. Patricia Johns
obvius snse.2. Taylor Mali
Despite the judging, the DJ Renegade
teams continued to be in close 4. Evert Eden
competition throughout the
final rounds, often having score Team Competitioi
differences of only a tenth of a 1. Providence. Rh
point. But as with all competi- 2. Berwyn, linoi
tions, there must be a winner, 3. Austin, Texas
which in this case was 4. New York, New
Providence. In the individual
finals were poets Wammo, DJ Renegade, Saul
Williams, Taylor Mali, Patricia Johnson and Evert
Eden. These poets went through only two rounds, the
first eliminating the two lowest scorers and the sec-
ond placing the remaining four.
The winner of the individual slam was Patricia
Johnson. All the poets were outstanding in their own
way, performing terrifically in front of an audience
of hundreds. They each deserve a tremendous
amount of congratulations for a job well done.

. d

basket of 'toon tunes

through the "Space Ghost" and "Secret
Squirrel" themes. "Space Ghost" is also
seriously composed, but has slightly
goofy space sounds littering it up, while
"Secret Squirrel" has serious music and
goofy lyrics and vocals.
Overall, the second CD is the most
eclectic as far as sounds go. There's a
little bit of everything on it. It's really
the swing disc of the set.

As Ann Arbor poet Steve Marsh was quoted,
"I learned early that the quickest way to a per-
son's heart is through its face. For that reason, I
try to stay in your face. I have undertaken to
heighten consciousness through an anachronis-
tic and nearly moribund style. In the last few
years, I've found that poetry
nal is about the same all over
n Winners this continent. Mine's a little
better than most, not as good
Jon: as some. Come judge for




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locations around
the city. These
nightly events
could range from
the "Evening of
Bad Habits," con-
sisting of poetry
about smoking,
drinking, drugs
and nymphoma-
nia, to the
"Midnight Erotic
Readings," which
are fairly self-

In answer to these words,
though the National Slam is
over for this year, those hun-
:, gry for a taste of the experi-
ode Island ence should check out the
Heidelberg's poetry readings
on the first Thursday cf each
York month. Anyone is welcome to
attend and participate. Until
then, remember that in a Slam, the audience gets
a chance to have its own say. Let the judges know
what you're thinking and, most importantly, have
a good time!
Or, in the immortal words of Wammo, summing
up his poetic life, "Adjective, adjective, accom-
plishment, adjective blah blah, cable music chan-
nel poetry tour, blah blah, Lollapablahblah, book,
blah, runner-up blah, blah album, blah." No other
poet could have said it any better,

The third may have the largest
ber of individually good songs, the
even if it_ is the frighteningly m
themed Flintstone disc. With no
than three versions of the show's th
and 20 other tracks, it's Flint-tastic
There're a surprising numbe
songs really being sung on the
"Rockin' Bird" is a normal pop-
song of the '50s. "Star Dust" is sui

By Ted Watts
Daily Arts Writer
When Rhino Records sets out to do
something, they do it in style. The box
set of "Hanna Barbera's Pic-A-Nic
Basket" is no exception, even if it is on
their kiddy label.
The first recognizable thing about
the set is the packag-
ing. About the size of ® Hanna
the now-extinct long- Pic-A-1
box, but twice as
thick, the box has a V Various,
cartoony wood grain RhinoR
and two lids that flip(
up, just like an actual **** (ou
picnic basket. There
are even illustrated hinges. But there's
more. A handle can be flipped up, mak-
ing the box set just as portable as its
namesake. These touches all add a lot
of fun visually, but the lids make it hard
to remove the big booklet and CDs, and
the handle has a tendency to flop
around a bit. Still, a really good effort.
The inserts for each of the four CDs
inside also add to the lunchy concept, as
they each depict in a retro way various
foods, from chicken legs to watermelon.
The final effect is something like a sur-
realist mass production with a '50s feel.
Each of the four CDs has its own con-
centration. The first is made up almost
entirely of music from late '50s/early
'60s Hanna Barbera cartoons. From the
opening jingle of the "Ruff and Reddy"
theme, a lush wash of band music
comes gushing at the listener. The music
shows the movement away from the
more classical scores of theatrical car-
toons of the '40s and '50s. Both the
structure and instrumentation is newer
and looser. Due to time constraints, bud-
gets a fraction of those of theatrical car-
toons, and the lack of a major studio's
symphony orchestra, Hanna Barbera
Studios had to do with a lot less. But
their initial output was still of high qual-
ity. Their early cartoons didn't have full
animation, but their designs had flair
and their writing was good. And, as this
shows, their music was superb past the
point where the visuals and the writing
of the cartoons went to hell.
The lyric-oriented theme songs of char-
acters were a big difference from most
existing cartoon music. Some Disney
characters had themes, but they aren't as
memorable as the Hanna Barbera exam-
ples. "Huckleberry Hound"'s theme is
quick and catchy. Of course, it is nothing
next to Yogi Bear's. Isn't "Yogi Bear is
smarter than the average bear..." still rat-
tling around inside your head somewhere,
making you think about all those missing
picnic baskets from Jellystone Park? And
on this recording you get to hear the orig-
inal sponsorparts of the theme, like the lit-
tle line promoting Kellogg's cereal in the
Yogi theme.
Of course, even Yogi can't compete
with the Flintstones. You don't even
need to have that theme in your head.
Just turn on the Cartoon Network for a
couple of hours and you're sure to hear
the theme song along with an episode
of the show. Everything about that
show has dug its way into the con-
sciousness ofTVland and made itself a

more or less permanent fixture there.
Also on this CD is a "Flintstone Jazz
Underscore," although it's a small vein,
considering the Flintstones is on the
third CD in this box.
. The CD is filled out with
a grab-bag of lesser-known themes,
including some interesting "Magilla
Gorilla" music,
Barbera's and even more
ic Basket interesting ads
for Ideal Toys
rtists piggy-backed on
cords them. Oddly


t of 5)



theme (plus a
variation for the "New Scooby Doo
Movies") is included. It's odd because
it's a few years older than the rest of the
material on the first disc, and it's a
human-oriented show instead of
anthropomorphic dogs or ducks. Well,
OK, there's one anthropomorphic dog
regularly on the show, and the
Flintstones were people, but you know
what I mean. Oh well, it's very enter-
taining and fits well as far as lyric-
based tuneage goes. I still don't see why
it wasn't on the second disc.
Sure, it has some more "Flintstones"
material on it, and some talking.-animal
stuff, but it's really the second direction
for the studio and comes together the-
matically that way. Humans arf much
more prevalent as main characters
here. The Jetsons, Jonny Ques, Space
Ghost, and Josie and the Pussycats,
amongst others, are here.
After an initial slew of more conven-
tional Hanna Barbera material like the
moderately jazzy "Top Cat" under-
scores, comes the hyper, shrill and
futuristic theme for "The Jetsons."
Again, an immediately recognizable
tune with super-recognizable lyrics
("Daughter Judy / Jane his wife"), "The
Jetsons"' music still has an underlying
band presence to it, but is pushed for-
ward musically by the need t sound
somewhat convincingly like the future.
There are a lot of higher-pitched instru-
ments and faster even-tempo rhythms,
and occasional sci-fi nods (I think
there's even a very brief therem:i part
in the underscore). "The J.sons"'
music is sort of a mid-step of evolution
for the Hanna Barbera music. A tune in
the underscore, rife with organs, seems
to have been recycled rather closely
into the "Josie and the Pussycats"
theme, which is a guitar-based jingle
with lots of flutes in the background,
but is essentially a pop-song composi-
tion (fun fact: Cheryl Ladd sings on this
song). In the same category are songs
like the "Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm
Show" theme and "Hong Kong
Phooey' although all have a distinct
novelty flavor.
On the other side is the "Jonny
Quest" theme, with its adventurous
music and low, grumbly bass sound. It
can almost be seen as the ultimate
instrumental to come from Hanna
Barbera, as it sounds good without a
trace of irony in it. It is simply strong
and percussive. Themusic links back to
tho rest-of Rann# Barbera pretty clearly

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