CURATOR’S POST MORTEM FROM TAYLOR MALI: We have three types of pairings that we talk about while curating pairings, and this one was a little bit of all three. There are the ones we call Birds of a Feather, in which the two poets have so much in common the seem almost cut from the same mold. Then there are the Mentor pairings, in which one poet has been strongly influenced by the other. Finally, we sometimes have Apple & Orange pairings where we ask, “What do you think would happen if . . .?” Bob Holman says this pairing was also of another type that can only be called “Historic.”
Saul started with a couple poems he read out of his journal. The first one had a couple of false starts as he realized a few lines in that he was reading the wrong draft! He very graciously announced that as the “stage poet” he felt it was his job to “lower the bar and diminish expectations.” Carolyn, on the other hand, started with her most famous poem of all, “The Colonel,” and the bar was immediately raised again, and everyone in the room felt it! It’s not a competition, of course, but the back and forth nature of the format makes it feel like a friendly battle or passionate conversation. For his third poem, Saul pulled out “Children of the Night, a poem as old as his daughter Saturn (17+), which I believe I heard him read for the first time when I saw him qualify for the 1996 Nuyorican Slam Team (an electric night). This was the first poem he did from memory, and it catapulted the crowd into stratospheric delight. Carolyn took the mic after and asked, “How does he do that!?”
Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of four books of poetry.
Saul Williams is one of the most recognizable and respected voices to come out of the tradition of slam.