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There's been a lot of talk about the group work from Denver on the Finals stage last week, and justifiably so: they are a honed squad of professional performers doing poignant work that does not shy away from the full range of its team's abilities. They seem to have actively sought out any limitations in each of their poets and single-handedly crafted a place to make those limitations strengths. They are true and worthy champions and the Slam community should be proud to be represented by them this year. Their win is a win for all of Slam.

But that Lucifury poem...

Theo "Lucifury" Wilson's poem "Dark Jester" was my favorite poem of not only Finals, but possibly all of NPS this year. It was the poem I stood up clapping for. It was the poem I leaned forward in my seat to ensure I was seeing what I thought was seeing. When he sat down I turned in my seat and just stared back at him, nodding, thinking, "I think you just messed my head up, bro."

It does what all of my favorite slam poems do: it speaks truth to power almost literally, is supremely performed, and its message is tied to the performer so intrinsically that to see it in any situation other than live is almost pointless. To wit, there is a video of the same poem on YouTube right now from earlier this year, and while it remains a noteworthy performance and poem it does not come close to fully capturing what he did on Finals stage last week. In its ideal state, Wilson's marriage of message and performance of this poem transcends medium.

It's deepest effect comes from the sly duality of its the message - being guiltily entertained by a poem about being entertained by the eradication of another's humanity. It makes you feel dirty for liking it, is aiming for your sensibilities in a way that a lot of slam work tries to but fails. It resonates with supreme irony, and when his eyes roll in your direction a part of you feels like he knows exactly what he's doing to you specifically. It is a discomforting work of art, and it knows it.

I am often eager to dismantle black poetry, for the better or the worse. I believe the canon of black poets as a whole has a very particular mission in this world, whether they like it or not. So any poem that seeks to engage me using slavery, sambo-ism, blackface and the devotion of racism to entertainment (or perhaps vice-versa...which came first, boss?) is begging for my hammer. But from the marionette-informed awakening of the narrator to the in/out smile of daggers to the pounding historical observations married across eras and genres, "Dark Jester" is a poem that every aspiring slam poet should have to see before they show up to play, not just the ones who seek to right the Great White Wrong.

And maybe it's because I'm black. Maybe I find it extra compelling because its message rings true to the messages that appear in my work. Rest assured, my ethnicity only enhances what is already there: a masterfully crafted poem delivered in such a way that the poem and the poet disappear and there is only meaning, only resilient truth. As far as I'm concerned, black or not, we have a new poem in the Slam firmament of classics.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
nerak_g
Aug. 17th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
I could NOT agree more.His words strip paint from walls and peel back skin.The line about the grandmother's milk as the white lines on the flag--WHAT!?
I love it when a poem bends the form, when the performance is as creative as the words---and then for their whole team to do that in a unified way is just marvelous.Most years in NPS it's a poet here and there, or certain poets on certain teams (remembering Bluz & Swan's duet from a couple of years ago), or sparks throughout.
I feel like NUBA forced us all to witness
& that's the WHY of love I have for this, because I came to poetry through the poetry of witness.
So when a whole team does it, top to bottom, every element, it's a win for all.
That piece---I agree---you have to hear it live to really let it get to you, with all the voice, all the power & all the eyeroll.
I agree, it's a classic.
radioactiveart
Aug. 17th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
Just watched the YouTube of the Nuba send off (since I couldn't get to Finals).

If that didn't do it justice, I'd be hard pressed to imagine what it was like at Finals. That was outstanding.
revsaintmichael
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
"What kind of empty you got inside of you..."

"If you're willing to trade that superiority for humanity again /
Then I'll be waiting for you like salvation inside the darkness of the divide"

He HAMMERED that piece. My teammate Warren gave up the standing ovation, and that's a rarity.

It made me think of Bayou while he was performing it.

It was the best piece I heard on Finals Stage.
upendedurn
Aug. 26th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
I agree. That poem was in my top two, and I'm not ranking either beyond that.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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