Tuesday nights, I’m generally sitting somewhere in Los Angeles at Da Poetry Lounge (DPL) where hundreds of poets, poetresses, rappers, musicians and devout listeners congregate to pray amongst commonalities of pain and triumph.
Shit’s pretty serious most of the time. And the place has got some (obvious) rules. Only piss in the toilet hole, not around it. Respect the poets. A great audience makes a great poet. And poets, ya’ll only got three minutes to work it, so edit the epic.
Most slam poets come here to express what oftentimes is silenced and damaged, and with that being said you can guess the ambiance that creeps up. It’s intense. It’s painful. It’s touching. And you listen and you respect the brave voices.
I remember my first time on the mic. I was so horrified that I could feel the pages in my hand shaking so hard that I gave in and stopped repressing it. I stopped in the middle because I couldn’t read the size 8 font or remember how to speak English again. And afterwards I didn’t show my face until I was certain they’d all forgotten it.
So after several weeks, I went back tonight.
The poets were stunning. Each voice was so unique and had something special to say, that they were here, that they’ve overcome something insurmountable and believed in themselves and in their stories and to grow the courage and share them with us.
I was serious. So serious.
And then, a man fresh off the boat from Italy preformed his very own pop song. The crowd roared in laughter and within milliseconds it was socially acceptable to laugh, at or with I couldn’t tell.
But later on in the night, his friend performed.. quite the unusual type to do so at a place like DPL. This guy strutted on the stage with his hiking sandals and an oversized hemp jacket and long blonde hair… I was waiting for what he had to say.
And then he opened his mouth. He straight up sounded like Keaunu Reeves in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He read his philosophies on the universe and what have you from his phone. And he looked at us all. “Fire.” “Earth.” “Water.” “Universe.” And he paused, and said things with such a distinct pothead accent. “And like, you.” His transitions killed me. I couldn’t hold it in. I’ve never not taken a poet seriously, regardless of their skill levels. But I burst like I was in a third grade classroom, where giggling would buy you detention and a dirty look from the teacher. I looked down at my crossed legs and giggled, and shut my mouth. I prayed it would be over. He read another poem. It intensified. I needed to bust out of the room before I’d get kicked out for being disrespectful. He performed a third poem, which is highly discouraged for time’s sake. This would be my final blow. And thank goodness the DJ, Brotha Gimel, decided his performance was way too long and sounded the warning signal. The poet continued gracefully. Gimel turned up the music and turned off the lights. He walked off the stage, and the EMCEE came on and subtly commented that that shit was kinda damn long. And the folks behind me bumped fists in solidarity and agreed with my rude laughter.
I didn’t know what came over me. I felt super horrible for dissing a poet in a space where their secrets and stories should be respected. But I didn’t even laugh that much at the Laugh Factory last week. I like that I’ve grown a sense of humor, at least.