Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
has been published or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s
, among others.
Her latest book, Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam
, was published last year by Soft Skull Press. A new collection of poetry, Everything is Everything
, will be forthcoming in January 2010 on Write Bloody Publishing.
She can frequently be found at the Bowery Poetry Club, where she runs the Tuesday night poetry series, NYC-Urbana. For more information, please visit her website
’s editor chose this poem as a counterpoint to the previous issue’s ContraVerse essay
on the perils of slam poetry.
—Back to Orsorum Contents/Issue Links—
For the People Who Keep Asking Me Why I’m Still In Slam
Because the microphone slouches like a bad boy
whose neck I want to choke.
Because sometimes the poem punches its way
off my tongue, and other times it needs to be
dragged out of my ribcage by its hair.
Because I have said things in front
of a roomful of strangers that I would never
say to my own mother and for good reason.
Because I have heard poets say things
in front of roomful of strangers that made me
pulse, made me sweat, made me want to push
further, risk everything, be that beautiful.
Because sometimes I have felt that beautiful.
Because sometimes I have felt ugly too
and it was okay.
Because I still have stories to tell.
Because I have had my heart broken.
Because I have had my heart broken and survived.
Because I have had my heart broken, survived
and someone told me the poem I wrote about it sucked.
Because I survived that too.
Because the bear hugs, because the uh-huhs,
because of the venomous looks people give
to the guy whose cellphone starts ringing.
Hey, asshole! Can’t you see we are
listening to poetry here!
Because people are listening to poetry here.
Because there is poetry here, every cracked voice,
every stutter, every stumble is poetry. Every
shaky piece of paper held by shaky hands,
every nervous laugh, every awkward pause: poetry.
Every braided head, every untied shoelace,
every spilled beer, every Yo, this is first time
I’m doing this, every Man, it’s been a minute,
it feels good to be back, every time the poet
says, This is some new shit and people
in the audience lean forward like a dare,
like they are looking for a light,
and the poet’s flint be sparking.
Because some nights I didn’t feel like it
and it seemed like those were the nights
I needed it the most.
Because I’ve won, and it didn’t make me
more of poet.
Because I’ve lost, and it didn’t make me
less of poet.
Because I’ve cheered until my throat ran raw,
laughed and cried and fell on the damn floor
like a fool, for poetry.
Because I am a fool for the poetry.
Because of the poetry.
Because this, all of this,