By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
First stop: the Bisbee Poetry Festival. LaSpaluto took third in the slam. The crowd loved him, he says. Next stop, Orange County, California, where they talked their way into a gig at a local bar. The crowd didn't love them; in fact, they were ignored.
"Eventually, the sound guy turned down the microphone on us because we were interrupting conversations and interrupting the Ping-Pong game," he recalls. "This was a downer evening, that's for sure."
They had better luck in San Francisco, where the coffee-house crowd was "very much into the journey thing which we were doing." By the time they reached Seattle, they were trading books for beers. The slam there had been canceled, so they turned toward home.
The Dodge broke down in Oregon, and they were stranded for days. Cash was running as low as their poetic spirits. Regardless of what Kerouac might have done, they took their Visa cards and checked into a hotel.
@body:Clearly, this is a cycle. Though the slam-era poets look to Kerouac and other 1950s reprobates--Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas--for their literary and lifestyle inspiration, the new scene seems to be an end-of-the-century phenomenon, young "artists" acting out under the unbearable weight of boredom and alienation, real or imagined, like the French poets Verlaine and Rimbaud did while the 19th century rotted to an end. Instead of shooting lovers in the throes of passion or running off to Tahiti like Gauguin to paint pictures of dusky native beauties, they're sketching word pictures (sometimes painted by number) to read aloud to like-minded artists in coffee houses and clubs.
No one thinks the scene will last. Jack Evans is almost old enough to remember the last Beat era, and he carbon-dates himself with a TV analogy. "Once Maynard G. Krebs came along, then it became a joke," he says, speaking of a beatnik character created by Bob Denver (in his pre-Gilligan days) for The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis TV series of the late 1950s and early 60s.
With the same poets reading the same stuff two or three nights per week, Phoenix fans may reach a poetic saturation point. One weekly slam event has already fallen by the wayside.
As for the poseurs, those playing the role of the poet in the eternal quest to find an identity and hopefully to get laid, as well, as Pauline Muncie of the Divergent Art Series says, "After a few months, you'll go back and see that they've played and enjoyed and then gone on to something else." The serious poets will continue to write poetry seriously. Meanwhile, "I'm having a good time," says Jack Evans.
His artist friend Jeff Falk chimes in: "Yeah, we'll be dead the next time it comes around.