Although Art Prize largely hosts non-local artists to attract non-local visitors, the poets from The Drunken Retort took full advantage of the crowds that the event brought into Grand Rapids by organizing a spoken word showcase. This event put the spotlight on some of the city’s best and brightest local poets, inviting them to perform at Cerasus Studio (120 Division Ave S). The event is a fundraiser to send Amanda Zerilli, our Grand Rapids Representative, to the Individual World Poetry Slam.
The night started with Fable the Poet asking the audience, “What does ‘resist’ mean to you?” a question that was present, right in the forefront or simmering under the surface of each poet’s performances. The featured poets all had their own lovely and wise words to share with those who gathered to listen in the packed, intimate studio space.
Highlights from the featured performances of last night (Saturday, September 30):
Michaelyn Mankel opened the event. A newcomer to the world of spoken word, she was highly accoladed by Slam Master Fable The Poet. He compared watching her perform to watching Jimi Hendricks wail away on his guitar. Her first poem, “An Open Letter to the White Women Who Woke Up in Trump’s America,” reflected on the role white women played in the election of Trump, pressing for reckoning and change, while also admitting that she herself, as a white woman, is not free from blame. A favorite line from that poem, is when she is discussing the 50% of white women that supported Trump, saying “I will kidnap your daughters, Raise them to be decent human beings, Young women who love themselves so fiercely their allegiance will never be pledged to white men at the expense of women of color, at the expense of all people of color.”
Gypsy Schindler brought a personal feel to the event. Before she began her first poem she spoke about the consequence of the election and existing in a family in which some members support Trump, “I believe anger is an important tool, but it can also be easy.” In their poem “On Feeling Small,” Gypsy went on to explain the struggle to level, or even communicate with them, but also the gratification that comes with seeing small, gradual positive changes in those you love. These lines landed with a more significant weight, as Gypsy had shared between poems that the woman sitting to the right of the stage was her aunt.
Kevin Lee McLary lightened the mood momentarily with a poem from a book he is working on, titled “Life is Great and I Love My Friends,” which described told the story of a fictional event where a friend is shocked, seeing a literal meteor of love and affection coming for them. A wonderful and funny piece, one can only guess what else will be in the full publication. Kevin Lee did note in seriousness about the political nature of his next piece. “I am… a white man, so that means most of what comes out of my mouth about politics is largely irrelevant, because I have the most privilege. But it also allows me to write about that privilege, which I think is important.”
Featured poet Rachel Gleason localized the crowd’s attention with her first poem about the current state of Heartside and the first few blocks of Division South and how the city’s policies disadvantage the homeless that have to call those streets home, reciting the lines “I live in Heartside, where the high rises go up and up above the down and out.” Rachel’s following poems chronicled some of her personal experiences, one of which where a child gave her a drawing of a water slide. It was a metaphor for aging, with a baby at the top of the slide and an old person shooting off the end, airborne, toward a bed of spikes. The child drew an arrow on the slide right before the end, writing to her, “You Are Here.” The poem about the drawing evoked both a laugh and a reckoning with our own mortality from both Rachel and the audience.
Featured poet Amanda Zerilli, for whom the fundraiser is raising money to send as a representative of Grand Rapids to Spokane, WA for the Individual World Poetry Slam, shared about her own experiences growing up both with privilege, but also as someone who is treated adversely for her sexuality. On discriminatory remarks by coworkers, she recited “So you can say you’re not a murderer if you don’t look where your bullets go, so you can say ‘I didn’t really murder you.’” And then in a poem commenting on society’s current views of civil rights protest aschewed the line, “Black lives matter, but white lives are afraid to hear them say it. They say they are colorblind, but the brown still gets tossed aside.”
“Those poets have competed before, but slam isn’t about competition, which is why seeing all of these artists coming together to send a fellow poet to a National Event is so beautiful!” said Marcel “Fable” Price after the event.
The event continues tonight at 8pm at Cerasus Studio with a suggested donation of $5-$10. Performers for the second night include Annie Livingston, Wayne Bowerman, and Brianne Ross. Featured poets Amanda Zerilli and Rachel Gleason will also be performing again. If you happen to miss it, the Drunken Retort holds it’s slam every 2nd monday of the month at Stella’s Lounge.
Written by Schyler Perkins