Okay, okay. I don’t actually know how to “slam” or “jam” or anything remotely cool like that. But I couldn’t pass up going to an event titled “Creative Slam” in Madison, Indiana. The event page on Facebook I was invited to by my new friend and fellow writer JeffRey Phillips, had the following description:Open to Everybody
People gather to share their talents. Any talent is welcome. Some examples are singing , dancing , storytelling , playing music , acting , drawing , poetry , comedy or any other you can think of. If you would like to perform just show up and sign in. Otherwise just come and watch the show. We would appreciate your support ! It is located upstairs at the Cultivate Center. Length of show may vary.
Intriguing. How could I not go?
With acknowledgments to Graeme Fothergill, the founder of Creative Slam who couldn’t make it, JeffRey emceed the event. It was held on the second floor of the Cultivate Nature Shop on Main Street, the Cultivate Center. Shop owner Dave Misamore enjoyed the performances quietly from the second row.
I was glad to hear JeffRey read from him own work as well, also rounding out the evening with his newly created “Book Poem,” written from the perspective of his chapbook. Near the end of the evening, we were treated to zucchini bread made by JeffRey’s wife Peggy, whose culinary creations are a delicious form of art.
Although I was told there is usually a broader range of participants, the average age of the slam I attended was 19. Remembering how my life was at 19, I was pretty impressed with the way they carried themselves, their work and maturity.
The first to step to the stage was 16-year-old Dakota Phillips, the youngest of the set. His prowess is acting. He even has a portfolio which he brings to events. Each month he dons a new character, complete with outfit and monologue.
As the readings continued, I listened with surprise to the material of young Madison area talent.
Poems and songs were colored in shades of love and death, thoughts of self and selflessness.
I contributed a few pieces I had pre-printed, but would have switched for others, if I had anticipated the age of the audience.
As it was, I brought a newer one to read aloud for the first time about watching the slow, cancerous death of my mother. I was surprised at how well it was received, and realized I had judged them, had been judging them for nothing other than their youth, since I entered the room.
When did age alone become a factor in deciding who will or won’t have a voice worth hearing?
Reading that poem to their pained expressions, reverent attentiveness and hushed stillness made me understand I was assuming the same things I would have resented from older writers when I was that age.
At 19, I was writing about some awful things I could never have said aloud to anyone at the time, let alone on a stage in front of strangers. Some of those things have even taken another two decades to be allowed to move from my brain to my mouth.
Who was I to judge anyone?
As I listened to the performers, it suddenly struck me that I am an adult. How far I am now from a girl who could consider that the only way out from under pain was the obliteration of life itself. When did it change? How?
I found myself wanting to push these young men and women back into the nest of childhood, embrace them in a protective mother hug and take away whatever parts of life that had caused them to think more deeply and maturely than other youth their age.
But what is a poet, a musician, a player of any stage who hasn’t learned to take those lessons, grow through catharsis and share them with the world?
Teen angst has an unfairly negative connotation. Yes, seeing the world from the hindsight of, um, let’s say a few decades has the advantage of understanding that things really will get better with time, are always less than some trials, worse than others, or fade away entirely in the course of a life of hard work.
But that angst is normal, is healthy, maybe even essential for understanding ourselves better as we age. It is raw; life in the moment.
As someone who struggles to find the peace of living in a single moment, I’ll take it vicariously wherever I can.