Denver's Minor Disturbance youth Slam Team made history for the local poetry scene earlier this year when they appeared in Brave New Voices, the HBO special that followed the 2010 National Slam Team championships held in L.A. Denver's team won fourth place in the global competition, but many had issues with HBO's edits. Happily, none of the promising young poets had to worry about edits or cuts during a reading held Wednesday, the first public reunion of the troupe since the HBO special aired in October.
Minor Disturbance poets Jose Guerrero, Eli Lynch, Dominique Sample, Kyle Sutherland, Libby Howard and Elizabeth Cheever offered a mix of old and new material as part of a new weekly Slam session held at Yellow Feather Coffee in Denver. Minor Disturbance coach Ken Arkind and other local poets also offered readings for the crowd tightly packed in the coffeeshop's back room.
Eli Lynch, who helped start the weekly reading at Yellow Feather less than two months ago, said the intimate venue and tight-knit crowds made the forum an ideal spot for the public reunion of the Minor Disturbance troupe. The freedom of the small, communal reading, he added, proved a nice relief the limits and impositions of the television special.
"It was exciting, because we were going to be on TV. When it aired, even people from out of the state...were universally disappointed with it. I think the reason for that was that all the poems were edited down to about 45 seconds. It really butchered most of the poems," said Lynch, 17. The Denver team competed alongside troupes from New York, Albuequerque and California's Bay Area. "I should have seen it coming. I don't know why it surprised me."
Lynch added that key lines were omitted from "Sweatshop," a poem he penned with Jose Guerrero that directly critiques capitalism. A poem directly critiquing Russel Simmons, the special's co-producer, was also slashed.
Still, the TV special proved to be an important forum for the team and its coaches Ken Arkind, Mary McDonough and Panama Sueto. It highlighted works by poets like Kyle Sutherland, 18, who had been participating in Slam sessions for only a year when he got a spot on national television.
"Honestly, the TV thing was all right, but the overall love of the crowd was one of the most spectacular things I've ever experienced in my life," Sutherland said. "All those kids are poets from all across the nation and most of them are inner city kids. Just the amount of support in the room drowned out the HBO nervousness. It was more about the art than it was about HBO being there."
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Sample, Howard and Cheever have left Colorado to attend colleges in three different states; Guerrero, Lynch and Sutherland are still based in Denver. In addition to the weekly forum at the Yellow Feather, Lynch is planning his first national poetry tour as part of a high school senior project. Arkind will join him as coach and official guardian Here's a sample of some of the troupe's newer work.
"Ode to Eastern Thinking" by Kyle Sutherland At center, I am the right To the right, I am the left Once left, I am center
Centered around the balancing act I slip on both sides And fall both ways Down the middle of every thought.
From "Autopsy" by Elizabeth Cheever and Libby Howard I don't want my words to build walls I don't want this to be my only way out. I want to be a good person, not just a good writer I want to fuck someone without trying to think of a prettier verb.