Albuquerque Rocks! (And Poetry Slams Too)

August 16, 2005, [MD]

Albuquerque\ I arrived in Albuquerque from Tucson at around 9AM on Wednesday, dumped my luggage and set out to explore. I walked around all day in the sun, eating some great Mexican food at a place where they were even playing one of the most popular songs down in Sinaloa (Que se queda con ganas, con ganas). I walked down a little trail into a forest patch, found a little creek and waded in. Great stuff. Then I read the free weekly sitting there on the banks. I love free weeklies! This one just happened to tell me that the annual National Poetry Slam had just begun, with competitions and events all over town! There was also going to be some kind of a festival on Saturday. Great I thought, looks like a fun week.

I walked up to the University of New Mexico, and found free internet access in the science library. Later John, from Hospitality Club picked me up, took me for a ride around the city, and we went back to his little pad for dinner (I made some Asian-ish stir fry). John’s a middle-age welder, but that’s only half the story. He’s travelled a lot himself, lived in different countries, and he is one of those great openminded individuals who reads books, talks to strange people and find the world interesting. We had a lot to talk about. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time after this, but who knows if our paths will cross in the future. The next day I mostly slumbered around the house (watching crazy Mexican TV shows) and catching up on my emailing at the university.

Poetry Slam\ At night I went downtown to catch the semi-finals of the poetry slam. At one venue, I was not allowed, since my Norwegian ID was not good enough for them. Luckily there was another venue that was all ages. I came there quite early, and could not get a seat (it was a crowded restaurant), and when the slam finally started I was feeling quite tired and annoyed. But with the first three-minute group piece my tiredness was blown away. This was good stuff! Although the competition lasted for several hours, I was as excited as in a ball-game - after the poems we cheered and stomped our feet at the judges who dared give low grades, and some of the poetry and the performance of them was just amazing!

Prior to this I had only once been at a real poetry slam, in Malmoe, Sweden. That was very local talent and very variable performance (although still fun). This was the best that the US had to offer, and good stuff! I decided to postpone going to Denver by a few hours (catching the 1AM bus instead of the 8:30PM) and catch the finals the next day.

We Art the People\ The next day, after buying tickets, I went to the park to see what the fuzz was all about. I think the festival was called “We Art the People”, and it was kind of a coming-out of all of Albuquerque’s local talent, they had three stages that featured everything from older woman dancing Hawaiian dance to a guy with a beatbox sampling himself and turning himself into a whole orchestra that sounded awesome. There was good food (although there could have been more variety), paintings, sculptures, huge robots made of junk, tapestries… And workshops where kid could learn to paint, etc. In a nice park, in the sunshine - it was just awesome. The poetry slam finals in a huge convention hall that must have held more than a 1000 people, and was full, were great too. The individual performances were really good, although I thought many of the group pieces were weak, and I sometimes thought people we applauding more for the political contents than the lyrical qualities.

Denver\ The first day that I arrived in Denver, my hosts (good friends from back in China), had already been planning to go see a poetry slam there. We ended up at a great organic cafe of sorts, and listened to a band jam with a poetry reading, but were to tired to stay for the entire thing. Finally, yesterday, my friend rented “Slam”, an old movie about a drug-dealer cum poet who is imprisoned in Washington DC and uses his lyric-writing skills to stay out of trouble. So it’s really been a week full of poetry. But I just love dumping into these kind of things. Coming in to Albuquerque and reading in the Alibi that the National Poetry Slam was ongoing might not have been entirely like arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah and finding out that the Sundance Film Festival just started, and you got a free pass — but it’s close

Here’s a first-hand account from someone who helped arrange the nationals.

Next stop Kansas City.


Stian Håklev August 16, 2005 Toronto, Canada
comments powered by Disqus