Any working definition of slam poetry I could give in a space this small would be, at best, a woefully inadequate description of one of the most intense, vibrant, competitive, explosive and swiftly growing art forms in America. That said, I’ve always been a sucker for woefully inadequate descriptions, so away we go!
Slam combines the best elements of poetry, stand-up comedy, performance art, trapeze acts without nets, welterweight boxing and that scary dude on the corner ranting about the end times. It’s religion, catharsis, art, and laughter.
At best, it can induce in the audience the distinct sensation of riding a roller coaster that you don’t trust, an exhilaration born of having no idea what to expect, of just hoping to God you make it out of here alive.
So that’s what slam is, which segues nicely to the perhaps more pertinent question: Who the hell is Buddy Wakefield?
Answer: Buddy Wakefield is to slam poetry what crunch berries are to cereal. Buddy Wakefield is the gooey nougat center of the candy bar that is your dreary October in Bellingham. And Buddy Wakefield is much more apt at letting you know what he’s all about than I am, so just read the interview, OK? Sheesh, some people!
IC: First and foremost, how does one go from being an executive assistant at a biomedical company in Gig Harbor to one of the foremost poets working in the world in just five short years?
BW: Abridged version: Woke up being attacked by a cliche (realized I’ll only live this life once), booked a tour two months out, sold or gave everything away except what was sentimental or necessary, and have toured relentlessly ever since. Also, I was out of my mind.
IC: And what attracted you to slam in the first place?
BW: Rocking out with just a microphone, good vibration, gospel church without the guilt, the name, the gimmick, the hos and the corn. I had to buy the hos and the corn myself, but I love me some hos and corn... Okay, no. No I don’t... not if I have to shuck the corn myself.
IC: Had you previously worked in other mediums, or are we talking some sort of creative immaculate conception here?
BW: I was the president of the Christian Cowboy Friends and Fellowship Rodeo Association my junior year in college. Acting that macho took acting skills. The mask I wore hid the flood. A better answer is in my most recent journal entry on www.buddywakefield.com (“The Ani DiFranco Tour”). It tells about when I first started playing...
IC: In addition to the constant touring, you run the bullhorn collective for slam poets and others--How long has it been around, and how did the agency get started?
BW: It’s been around since 2002. I started it with Eitan Kadosh, then ended up running the thing by … Anyway, we started it because we wanted to create something fruitful in the name of moving forward and doing what we love for a living. It is still in full swing as we transition and revamp. Mark is now the Executive Director and will be creating a new site.
IC: What’s the effect of having artists [determine] where they play and for who? How has it been as an experience for you
personally?
BW: I’m not sure I understand the question, but I do love me some shucked corn and hos. Also, water is proven to have a memory. Most cops lack mirror neurons. So did Hitler.
IC: You’ve got a new album [Run On Anything] just out on Strange Famous records; how long has this been something you’ve wanted to do and how was the experience?
BW: It took well over two years to finish the CD. I’m a perfectionist. Wait... how can I say that better? I’m OCD with details. The loyalty and appreciation I feel for Strange Famous Records is paramount. The experience continues to make me smile inside, finger tip to finger tip.
IC: What things do you like/miss about being in studio rather than on stage, and how do you feel it affects your work?
BW: I have a preference for moments when I’m in balance, so studio or stage don’t matter as long as I nail it. I’d rather be on stage, with the Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
IC: You were representing Seattle at the National Team Poetry Slam earlier this
summer with our own native son Ryler Dustin, also sharing the stage with you
at this coming performance. How does the team aspect change a slam for you?
BW: I really like working with a team. I especially dug working with Team Seattle 2006 (Anis Mojgani, Tia Fields, Ryler Dustin, me, and coaches: Daemond Arrindel, Denise Jolly). No fuss, no drama, all respect, incredible having of backs and friendship. If you’re ever on a team with anything less, then it’s not really a team is it?
IC: Do you prefer working by yourself or with a group, or is there even any fair way to compare the two?
BW: You mean like in bed? I’m open to new experiences man.
*****
Buddy Wakefield will perform with local slam wunderkind Ryler Dustin and Randy Shinn (who I know nothing about, but assume is pretty awesome as well) at the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room on Wednesday, October 11th at 7pm. Tickets are $4 for WWU students w/ID, $5 general admission, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll run out and buy them right now...
C’mon, all the cool kids are doing it!