Last week, I went to my first poetry slam. I'd heard of poetry slams, but having never been to one was a function of timing. They rose to prominence in the cities after I left LA and moved to Frederick, MD. The closest I ever came to a "slam" was the punk slam dancing of the 1980's ... I think I still have bruises to show for the mosh pit. Anyway, it was an evening to remember and I was awed by the talent!
This slam is held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, where I serve as the interim rector. It's called "Live in the Undercroft" and is held in ... the basement (which Episcopalians give the fancy name "undercroft" in order to make it sound more ecclesiastical). We usually hold them on the third Friday of each month at 8:00PM. Consider this an open invitation: if you're in Baltimore on those evenings, come on over and check it out.
I heard more social commentary through these poems than I had heard in a long time. Sharon launched us with "What the hell is so convenient about convenience stores?" which decried the lack of fresh and healthy food in the inner city. Stephanie Okonkwo, who I believe should be named poet laureate of Baltimore (or at least Carey Street), read several of her works and talked about being an intelligent woman and being "old school." (Stephanie has just published a book of her poetry called Far Above Rubies - check it out!). Keisha presented for the first time and her poem "I Scream" was so inspiring, I had her come and read it on Sunday to lead into my homily. Uncle Daddy called his brothers to stand for something more than the violence which claims young black men in our cities. And we even heard a poem celebrating bisexuality. The whole of human experience was expressed: hopes, fears, pain, anger, dreams, addiction, healing, and love.
I came to support the program and the poets gave me a gift in return. I've asked some of our young women to help with poems for Advent which we'll include in our liturgy ... kinda turn it into a "homily slam" of sorts. I believe our faith must be relevant to our lives and poetry is a means which can make that connection. And our gifted poets have something to say!