Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Malsitna

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #62
    When was the last time you got a letter, email or message quoting a contemporary poem the non-poet sender did not write?  When was the last time you saw a politician, interviewee, inspirational speaker or standup comedian quote today's poetry?  When was the last time you saw someone perform--not read or recite but perform, as a Shakespearean actor might--a poem recently authored by a third party?  These are things poetry fans used to do centuries ago.  These were poetry's lifeblood when it was alive. 

    The bad news is that, as far as we can tell, poetry has only one remaining fan and age is catching up with him.  He attends open mics and, despite a failing memory, he performs the poetry of today's best versers--something that is illegal in slams.  As things stand, when he retires the last vestige of poetry's glory will disappear.

    The good news is that this same person has come up with an idea to encourage others to revive poetry's significance in our culture...and have a lot of fun doing it! 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #18
    A malsitna is exactly like a slam except that, like the Poetry Out Loud initiative, participants must perform someone else's work.  That might sound like a minor, cosmetic change but think of how little our DNA would need to be modified to produce a gorilla, a chimpanzee or a Miley Cyrus.

    For starters, the event immediately switches from a competition among poetry's producers to one among poetry's consumers.  Since the latter are an endangered species some of the former will need to convert.  Already we can see the appeal to publishers, who could organize malsitnas where competitors choose poems from the sponsor's publications, similar to Performance Contest Marketing.  These can be either live, like slams, or online ("cybermalsitnas", where entrants post recordings of their performances to, say, YouTube).

    Text-based poetry organizers and publishers can regard the malsitna as a way to encourage reluctant poets to honor the art form onstage without encountering the perceived demographical, stylistic and aesthetic tendencies of a standard slam.  Budget?  A malsitna doesn't cost money, it makes money [if you want it to].  Regular slammers could use the malsitna not only as a fund raiser but as a way to broaden the perspectives of their poets--two vital considerations when advancing to the nationals.  Ideally, the public might notice and wonder:  "What's this?  Poetry karoake?"

     A bar could sponsor a Malsitna Night where, with great pomp and humor, the manager might award a "Golden Pitcher" (like a Stanley or Davis Cup) of beer to the winner.  A book store or library might give out poetry volumes as prizes and, perhaps, have their own Ring of Honor for recent victors.  The event could be recorded and, with the proper permissions, shown online.  If the video goes viral, in one fell swoop, a poet in Alice Springs, Australia, a performer visiting from Peoria, Illinois, and a brick-and-mortar in Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, Alberta, can get their three minutes of game.

    Use your imagination!

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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