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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Slam poetry, coming to Carleton

<iting about slam poetry this week mainly to generate some excitement about the performance by Jared Singer and Thomas Fucaloro at the Cave tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m. Also with an open mic. My ability to bring more poets to Carleton in the future will largely be dependent on the success of this event. So please come. And bring your friends.

“This is the one thing I think people get twisted about a poet. They think that you are up there to bare your soul. I’m up there for a lot of reasons, soul-baring is one of them. But I am a performer, so I will lie to you. I will try to make you laugh and I will try to break your heart…”
– Rives, Performance Poet

Rives was the first one I met. He performed a poetic duet with a video of his own hand wearing googly-eyes and looking like a muppet. Rives would ask a question, and the tape of his hand would answer back. Then Rives and his hand both started playing harmonica, and it sounded amazing. Maybe this is hard to imagine. In person, it was hard to believe.

The event was called Literary Death Match, a monthly competition between poets, authors, playwrights and other literary people at New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club. Four contestants each perform a piece, and three judges (a New Yorker editor, an actor and a comedian) decide a winner. It’s all good fun. The other three contestants read from work they had recently published. Rives put on a show.

I asked Rives about poetry in the city, and he said there were three places you had to read in New York. The Bowery, the NuYorican and Bar 13. New York is famous for having poetry slams four nights a week (three during the summer when the Bowery Slam shuts down). The serious poets tend to go to all of them at some point or another. I went to the NuYorican a good number of times, but my real hangout was Bar 13. It was right by Union Square, right on the way home from work to my factory loft in Brooklyn. Bar 13 was where I first saw Jared and Thomas.

INTERJECTION:  In the midst of writing this column I found out that my work was just accepted at my favorite poetry journal, Muzzle ( They’re an online journal based out of Chicago that mainly publishes from the Performance Poetry community. In addition to the text version of the poem, they also publish an audio or video performance of it, so the reader gets the full experience. What they’re doing is crucial in keeping poetry alive in an increasingly digital age. Plus, the writing that’s in there is just phenomenal.  Excuse me while I party this one out. WOO HOOO. YEAH YEAH  YEAH!!!!


Jared was performing a poem about his nephew, and his nephew’s favorite color. It included (roughly) these lines:

Uncle Jared,
my favorite color isn’t green
it’s change.
In writing his poems, Jared never sets pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. He composes them, start to finish, in his head. His performances always seem so natural because he’s been rehearsing from the first word.

He has the best beard in poetry (in this Beard Auctioneer’s humble opinion), and after he competed in the finals of a poetry slam, I once heard someone in the crowd yell, “Let the Wookie Win!”

His poem “Letter to Sarah” hit me harder than any poem I’ve encountered in the past few years. I read a lot of poetry. This guy will destroy you and put you back together better.

Thomas is a more personal story. Let’s go back to July of 2010. Let’s watch Todd enter his first poetry slam. Let’s listen to him forget his words. Let’s look for his friends in the audience and not find them. Let’s watch as he runs out of the building. Let’s see him stand in front of an astounding projector art display taking over the entire façade of the abandoned warehouse across the street from his apartment. Let’s watch as he disovers he is unable to enjoy this beautiful thing. Let’s observe as he sits in a ball on the corner of his roof, crying into his PBR, because, after all, Brooklyn is Brooklyn.
Two weeks later I went back to Bar 13 with a new poem. I was transferring trains in Williamsburg and heard the two most amazing street musicians ever experienced. As soon as I got on the train, I started writing a poem about them. When I got off, I discovered my friend Angela had been on the same train, seen the same musicians. She had started writing a poem about them, too.

That night, Thomas read a poem about toys, and children, and what children grow up into. It included lines like, “The brain needs to be stimulated like a Russian prostitute.” People were saying it was “the poem of the night.”  Then I read my poem. The crowd seemed to like it. They clapped. The room felt warm.

Then the important part happened. Thomas pulled me aside. He told me it was a good poem. He asked for my name. He asked for my story. Then he introduced me to some other poets. And all of a sudden, I wasn’t alone at these kind of events. I always had a table I could pull up a chair at. It made sense to keep doing poetry.

And now he’s editing my comps. And now he’s coming to Carleton.

These small ways we have of reaching out make such a difference. The little words of encouragement. The ways people can let you know they like what you’re doing, and don’t want you to stop. 

Bringing Thomas to Carleton was the best way I could think of to show me appreciation for his work and his kindness. And Jared is just plain good. See you at the Cave.

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