My experience with poetry slams is almost nonexistent, so someone tell me: Do most poetry slams feature awkward rap battles between goofy white guys named Lando Calrhymian and MC ChewRocka, meditation on Gungan penis, and appearances by a a marching band led by Boba Fett? Because the George Lucas Poetry Slam at the Oriental on December 4 did, and if that's anything like par for the course, I need to get out to more of these things.
The event, which was filmed for inclusion in the upcoming documentary The People Vs. George Lucas, was one of the nerdier events I've ever been to -- and that's saying something for a guy with a few dozen sci-fi conventions and a short stint as a professional Magic the Gathering player under his belt. But it wasn't the people there that made it so nerdy -- many of them were surprisingly hip, in fact. What made it so unbelievably nerdy was the intense feelings evoked by Star Wars and its creator George Lucas.
Because let's face it: despite its ubiquity and heavy cultural cachet, there isn't much nerdier than that combination of cornball mysticism, spaceship dogfights and bad acting that takes place in a galaxy far, far away. And the people at this event -- from Denver's poet laureate (we have a poet laureate?) to the high school students (one pro-Lucas, one anti) reciting Star Wars poetry on a Friday night, from the college professor who wrote and recited a 22-limerick poem cycle recounting the plot of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope to caustic pseudo-celeb Sid Pink, who served as the emcee -- all had a deep and meaningful relationship with a series of mostly bad movies (two great, one mixed and three bad, by my count) that did more to sell toys than anything else. And that's just fucking nerdy.
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But I'm not one to talk, because I laughed at all the obscure references, cheered on Boba Fett and the Americans (the marching band led by Fett and comprised of musicians dressed in what can be best described as thrift store superhero costumes), and secretly wished I'd had the time to write my own poem to stand up there and recite. Because, despite my feelings about Lucas and his movies now, he was unquestionably the single largest influence on my taste between the ages of four (when I stood in line to see the first film in theaters, one of my first memories) to fourteen, when I moved on to Star Trek (even geekier, I know), and the ages of four and fourteen are pretty goddamn formative years. And it was clear that each and every one of those people had a similar story, even the woman who admitted she'd never seen the movies and still couldn't escape the influence of the Force:
The passion Lucas inspired in these poets made the night a success. Well, that and the surprisingly large number of dick jokes incorporated into the mix. Lord of the Rings doesn't have that kind of fanbase; Twilight can't even come close. And you just haven't really experienced the stranger reaches of fandom until you've seen a beatnik Boba Fett recite poetry about his personal and professional relationship with George Lucas through a megaphone while accompanied by a sax player.
The participants: Chris Ransick J Diego Frey Miles Andrea Moore David Rothman Aaron Anstett Matt Zambrano Boba Fett Sid Pink Mike Henry Kyle Sutherland Andrew Novick Lando Calrhymian, MCChewRocka, Rap Battle Droid Dee Casalaina Mark Risius