self portrait at the Kathleen Howland Gallery in Canton, Ohio – 6 August 2010

When I was in 11th grade, my creative writing teacher George Edward “Ned” Lyons at Midview High School in Grafton, Ohio, surprised me by calling out my name at a school assembly when I wasn’t paying attention.  It was a senior awards ceremony and I wasn’t a senior and I didn’t know Mr. Lyons had submitted five of my poems (published that year in Kaleidoscope) to a contest.  A friend nearby in the bleachers said to me, “Hey, I think he called your name,” which I didn’t believe at first.  But he did — and it turned out I won first prize — so I shyly went down to the podium on the floor where he handed me something like 20 dollars cash and a certificate.  That was 1983.

Last night I went down to the Kathleen Howland Theater, where Vertigo Xavier emcees Canton’s First Friday Poetry Spectacular, to check out new Facebook friend Phoenix Clouden‘s featured reading, witness an open mic at a (to me) new venue, and check out my first-ever poetry slam.  In a hesitant last second decision after the feature, I signed up to compete in the slam.  That’s when I got nervous.  This was my first slam and I had mixed feelings about it — but the mood was right and I figured one time couldn’t hurt me.  Wound up winning 50 dollars… finally outdoing my 1983 self.

It’s still hard to believe I won 1st prize in the slam….   There were a couple of other poets/performers who I thought could’ve won.  I performed “Bloodshot,” a piece I’d avoided doing Wednesday at Visible Voice when I shared a stage with Trenchcoat Manifesto and Dianne Borsenik because, though I think it’s a strong piece, I feel it’s overexposed and has lost some of its effectiveness among those familiar with my work.  But since only two people in the Canton crowd had heard it before, I said what the heck and laid it on them.

I didn’t video the Canton event, since Vertigo was already doing that.  But I did take lots of photos, which you can view here.  While you’re at it, you can view photos from the aformentioned 8/4 show at Visible Voice (and afterparty at Prosperity Social Club) here.  I did, however, video the Visible Voice show (Trenchcoat Manifesto and Dianne were especially fabulous!), so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you wanna see me performing “Bloodshot” elsewhere, you can check out this clip of Dianne and me delivering a joint reading on March 27th during Feed the Gays 2.  I had to break up my footage into 10 minute segments thanks to You Tube limitations, so this is only the second 10 minutes of what turned out to be about a 45-minute performance.  I’ll try to add all the rest to the Crisis Chronicles Online Library in the near future.

Check out Canton’s First Friday Poetry Spectacular every first Friday (honest!) at 7 p.m. in the Kathleen Howland Theater (below the 2nd April Galerie), 324 Cleveland Avenue NW in Canton, Ohio.  Their usual format includes a featured poet, an open mic for anyone who doesn’t wish to compete, and finally a poetry slam with cash prizes.

Peace and poetry,