Austin Poetry Slam, or Everyone Has a Lot of Feelings

Growing numb to your surroundings doesn’t happen in an instant, but if I had to pinpoint the trigger, I’d imagine it to be when you start fancying yourself too good for “touristy things.” If you can’t train fresh eyes on the city you live in and recognize in tired attractions the aspects that continue to enamor tourists, your city will lose its luster if you don’t re-explore.

North of campus, there’s a very Do512, “Top 20 Austin Spots” type of bar called Spiderhouse Café and Ballroom. By day it’s a quaint coffee house for chill music and food, and by night the outdoor patio space twinkles with colorful lights and burbling conversations. Spiderhouse hosts regular nighttime events, so it’s always lively.

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The patio (pic from:

The first event I attended was a standup comedy show called Shit’s Golden, in which the most memorable part was when a performer inceptioned us into thinking, for a few seconds, a video of his dick was a solar eclipse. My second Spiderhouse event was when my startup teammate and I spontaneously attended a peep show, which turned out to be a communal porno-viewing (the classic vintage alien flick, “Deep Space Sixty-Nine”) with comedians’ commentary and hilariously halfhearted censoring of genitalia.

Naturally, I was expecting something sexual for my third event. This Tuesday I went to listen to some slam poetry at Spiderhouse (and ever,) and while I wasn’t entirely wrong, the experience was so much more.


The slam was set up like a competition. That night, nineteen poets signed up for three-minute slots. After each performance, five “judges” selected from the audience would throw up scores out of 10.0 (all to one decimal,) and the emcee would sum the three middle scores. The top five contestants would advance to finals.

The quality of poetry was a mixed bag, of course. Some lines drew snaps and audible exhales from the audience. Other poets’ delivery, however, felt like minutes of getting yelled at.

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Basically how some performances went.

The ratings were inflated, too. Audience judges obviously weren’t trained to spot top-notch poems. Audience members who weren’t judges didn’t help either; they booed scores they considered too low, which were typically the first ones as the emcee would announce score in order from lowest to highest. Over the three hours, scores on average got closer and higher once people got drunker and stopped caring.

We’d heard so many poems from competitors and the booked performers that they all started bleeding together, but I’ve done my best to reconstruct the most memorable parts of the night.

Unforgettable moments

  1. An elaborate poem about the tribulations of having dandruff… spoken by a man wearing a colossal cowboy hat. It ended in a dramatic “you thought the poem was about dandruff? I was talking about DEPRESSION.”
  2. Parallelism in the form of “next time [insert something white people do]… I’m calling the cops.” (Eg. “Next time white people use mayo as seasoning… I’m calling the cops. Next time white people tell me they loved Get Out… I’m calling the cops.”)
  3. A guy sporting a red mohawk and a “BOYS DON’T CRY” T-shirt barely choking out a thinly veiled extended metaphor–surprise, the angel was him–through his tears.
  4. A guy acting out a writer in a straightjacket who descends into insanity. The refrain was “give me a pen.” I’m not doing it justice, but he was my favorite and ended in third place.
  5. The same guy in finals performing a poem about getting sodomized by your girlfriend. One guy rated him a 10.0.
  6. “I can’t wait to spread peanut butter and jelly… I am so hungry. GET IN MY BELLY.” 10.0. I may have taken artistic liberties because I don’t remember every word, but I assure you I’ve captured the essence.

11PM, unsticking our thighs from plastic chairs, my friend and I remarked that we felt “so Austin.” What exactly about watching strangers vomit their feelings on stage reminded us of home, we couldn’t say. I often emerge from Austin experiences without a definitive evaluation because they’re so messy. Endearing. Weird. And that, I guess, is half the fun.

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Last post: Bat Fest: A First Date Redemption Story


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