This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Slam Tutorial: "Beauty Ba-Bo" by R.C. Weslowski, solo and group versions

"Beauty Ba-Bo" by R.C. Weslowski. A little Lewis Carroll, a little absurdist, a little funny and a whole lotta awesome.

I have included this poem in my Slam Tutorial section of this blog is because it clearly shows how a perfectly fine solo poem by a single author can be converted in a group poem by adding choreography and multiple voices. If you want to make a group poem from your solo piece, watch the two poems in sequence.

A little backstory.

When Azami and I started talking seriously about poetry, she mentioned having seen R.C. Weslowski. I knew the name and knew his face from around the National Poetry Slam but wasn't that familiar with his work. The VanSlam (Vancouver, British Columbia) has a reputation for great poets - Ms. Spelt, Shane Koyczan, Barbara Alder - and sending great teams to the (U.S.) National Poetry Slam. They also have a rep for being somewhat ... quirky. As one of the heads of VanSlam, R.C. Weslowski certainly demonstrates that trait in his work. Being with Azami at NPS 2010, I was certainly more attentive to the Canadian teams that year.

At the Group Poem Slam, I first saw this poem (video below) and was blown away.


Combined with seeing R.C. Weslowski at several other events at NPS 2010 made me come to love him as one of favorite performers on the national level.

The best way I can describe it is that it feels like it was written in the vein of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" though more mainstream linguistically or an experiment in alternate history done in poetic form. (Alternate history is a sci-fi concept that postulates, for example, Julius Caesar avoiding his assassination in 44 B.C.E., Robert E. Lee wining at Gettysburg in 1863, young Adolf Hitler dying in the trenches in World War I).

I.e., imagine that the evolution of the English language diverged at some point so the thematic elements of the poetic ideas are the same, but the vocabulary has diverged slightly.
"before the let-go and slippage into forging"; "the talk-me-down"; "me boom-boom" instead of "my heart"; "any-be" instead of "anyway," and the titular "beauty ba-bo," etc.

If you listen to the poem line by line, it's fairly obvious how R.C. Weslowski chose how to write the poem - not to say it was easy to write by any means - but listening at regular speed with his cadence and performance style, it almost feels like tasting this alternate history.

The style reminds me of how 2001 FlagSlam alum Andrew Clark Hall, Ph.D., would write. I mean, Hall was so brilliant he once wrote and slammed a poem written in Middle English for fucksake.

The same solo poem converted into a five-person group poem by the Vancouver Slam Team in 2010. Coincidentally, I'm the fellow in the cowboy hat seated two or three rows in front of the person who shot this team video.

R.C. Weslowski has been a clown mouth full of bologna in the Vancouver poetry scene since 1998. As a performer R.C. Weslowski is a five-time member of the Vancouver Poetry Slam Team and has performed at Festival across Canada, including:
 The Calgary International Poetry Festival, The Winnipeg Writer’s Festival, The Saskatchewan Festival of Words, The Vancouver Folk Festival, The Vancouver Storytelling Fesival, Music West, The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

R.C. Weslowski has also performed his poetry on the Eiffel Tower while snorting the remains of Orson Welles and along the Rhine River in Germany while debating Schopenhauer with a schnauser.

As an event organizer R.C. Weslowski was the artistic director for the 2005 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and the publicity coordinator for the 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam. R.C. Weslowski is the current president of Vancouver Poetry House and he is one of the main people making the Vancouver Poetry Slam run.

The VPS is Canada’s longest running poetry slam, now in its 11th year. He is also on the board of the Spoken Word Arts Network.

But aside from all that he will literally blow your brain apart and put it back together again using nothing but his voice. Seriously.

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