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Jazz Poetry Jams

I’ve been coming to Jazz Poetry Jams at the American Jazz Museum for about five years. At first my poems had very predictable and forced rhymes because I’d only heard of traditional or academic poetry before. After I started listening to the other poets and saw how they worked rhymes I started becoming more subtle. My friend Simeon Taylor rhymes stolen with golden or my friend Sara “Miss Conception” Glass talks about “Mickey D’s – Crackdonalds if you please.” I come every month except the months I am riding my bike to Wichita, Omaha, Memphis, or other adventures. Every single month I think, “Maybe I’ll win the open mic this month.” It’s a $100 cash prize. I’ve won second twice, once with my “MIP” poem about the costs of the Iraq war and once with “Sometimes Doing Nothing is Immoral,” my poem about sex trafficking. This poem is a response to reading Half the Sky, a book about women’s rights in the developing world.

I decided I was ready to feature and asked Glenn North, the host, to book me. He said, “I’d love to, but we are all booked up for a year already.” So we ended up booking the gig 14 months ahead of time.  As I was preparing for the show I had the sudden realization that the way to create social change as an artist is to get people involved with volunteering for the programs I am designing to effect change in the world.  I went through the eight programs that Wellness Wordworks is creating and picked the four that were the most applicable to the audience. We ended up with five volunteers for Poetry for Personal Power, five volunteers for the Chocolate Fairy, Four people interested in Words as Weapons, and three people who wanted to join our Car-Free Challenge team.

At the end of the performance, I got a standing ovation. All of the years I’ve been coming to Jazz Poetry Jams, I’ve only seen two other poets get that, Sunni Patterson and Queen God Is. I was truly humbled. The 20 evaluations I got came back with the following scores (on a 4.0 scale):

Overall Show Ratings
Show quality 3.5
Poem delivery 3.47
Poem originality 3.53
Show tempo 3.32
Combination of motivational speaking, spoken word poetry, and activism 3.83
References to info 3.79
Overall usefulness 3.75
Inspiration 3.69

Comments and testemonials:

One action I plan to do: “Write, speak publicly.” “Add Corinna’s poetry to my website,” “Attend more poetry programs,” “Start a tarot business and base poetry on readings,” “Community outreach, social networking,” “Keep writing poetry,” “Stay out of the box,” “Talk to people all the time,” “Learn more about mental health advocacy,” “Turn others on to this poetry genius,” “To work with my coworkers in a better way,” “Take responsibility for my actions,” “Make sure spoken word poetry is heard by the masses.”

Most useful part of the show: “Delivering a message in regards to mental illness,” “The delivery of the poems,” “Exposure to a novel world-view and the beginning of understanding,”  ”All of it, I am challenging a mental illness myself from Iraq war,” “The connection of the art to everyday lives,” “Audience participation,” ” All of it.” (Three people said this.)

Most motivating part of the show: “Glad to hear Corinna as a feature,” “Poetry,” “The info in the poems,” “The overcoming of adversity,” “Ms. West not letting her illness take over,” “Seeing someone committed to effecting change with their art,” “The Olympic poem,” ” Corinna – you are the motivation: I smiled the whole time, blown away by your gift.” The honesty of it all.” (Two people said this.)

What surprised you about the show? ““Everything. Honestly I had fairly modest expectations and was overwhelmed by what I saw. Absolutely blown away.” “Loved all of the programs she is promoting.” “You used the band, I never have.”

Videos from the show:

I started with my Olympic Poem. People always ask me what it was like to compete in the Olympics, and this is it in 9 minutes, along with audience participation.

Next was my poem about Kansas City. I wrote it when I decided to buy a house.  There’s a funny moment in this video where I didn’t give the band clear enough instructions and they just had to make it up.

I did the poem I wrote when I bicyclist was killed during Bike to Work Week this year.

Then I performed my poem about the adventures I have riding a bicycle everywhere in Kansas City.

I actually had ten poems picked out for the gig because I thought I’d have about 40 minutes. The audience and I were both starting to get tired, though, so I starting cutting short the agenda at this point and only did one poem about mental health recovery.

My next to last poem was the Train Poem. I think this was my very favorite poem of the night. I felt like Micah Herman, Brandan Draper, and Christian Laetner from the band really made this poem incredible this time around.

I finished with “Sometimes Doing Nothing is Immoral.”

Then I got a standing ovation. I was amazed at the reception and all the comments on the evaluations. It was a great show. I had a lot of fun once I relaxed about half way through the performance. I learned a lot about working with the band and I have a few new ideas about costuming.  My boyfriend took a lot of pictures of my friends and fans and fellow poets. Feel free to download your pic if its up here.