Mark Hayward's City Matters: Slam Free or Die, a society of poets
But don't call me a writer, any more than you would describe a painter as a guy who paints houses for a living.
He uses paintbrushes like I use words — as tools to eke out a living in a world that appreciates a crisp morning newspaper as much as a fresh coat of latex in the living room. Maybe less.
The room is as dark as early nightfall, except for the light beamed onto the poet-performer by tiny halogen fixtures. The reader is surrounded by tables of listeners, camped just inside a 3-foot comfort zone.
Very few of the dozen or so poets read from memory. Some hold up worn notebooks, others iPhones. One laid a laptop on a music stand before voicing his verse.
"We're all the kindling for what love is capable of.
How warm does your lover's body have to be before smoke alarms go off?"
"Now I'm stuck looking at shot glasses like they're opportunities to find the truth I've been searching for.
Everyone I've loved has run away at least once. ...
Something had to change.
Maybe I would have learned more as a lonely drunk
Than a man with friends who always ask, "Are you OK?"
"Rich, he no longer looks like Jesus.
We are just the afterthoughts of championship."
Some are students — a faithful crowd comes down from New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, said Mark Palos, the organizer of the event. Others have jobs as hospital workers, caretakers for the disabled, public school teachers. Palos used to work for a gold buyer.
DeSantis started attending in high school because her teacher was on the slam team, she said.
Poetry readings in Manchester started in 2005 at the Bridge Street Cafe, Palos said. The organizers adopted the title Slam Free or Die in 2007 during a nationals competition. They moved to Milly's in 2010, drawn by the space and a bar, Palos said.
Palos reads as well as gives instruction on writing and performance. On Thursday, he lambasted the mall (full of hatred; full of cancer, the red blood cells of product and the white blood cells of money).
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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