Classic Poem Series Note: We are excited with the positive response so far to the announcement of the $500 H.O. Prize for Humorous and Original Slam Poetry!

And to celebrate and spread the enthusiasm, as many days as our internet works before the National Poetry Slam in Denver in August, we’re going to share poems that inspired this prize. These poems come from comedy, or utter weirdness, or savage intelligence, or pure exuberance.

Today we honor Jaylee Alde, who placed 2nd in the Indies competition in 2004 and 8th in the Indies in 2005 (when dinosaurs roamed free and there was no IWPS).

A real problem in this “classic poems” retrospective is the lack of reliable poetry filming before Button Poetry. Like the NUPIC underground indies now, back then if you didn’t see it in person, you weren’t going to see it. So today’s poem, Oh Cocaine (A Love Letter), hasn’t been competed at Nationals, but Jaylee has competed, and if this poem was performed at Nationals it would be a huge contender for the H. O. Prize.

Here are the strengths of this poem as I see them:

In-line juxtaposition. Jaylee, more than maybe any other slam writer I’ve heard in 18 years of slam and 16 consecutive National Poetry Slam attendances, will lay up two or three pretty creative descriptions and then slam dunk a final, completely unnecessary and unexpected, yet awesomely pleasing last description. I don’t want to wreck this poem by mentioning them, because the surprise is part of the pleasure, but in his more well-known Lighthouse he says, Before you, I had about as much grace as a drunk ballerina tap dancing with two broken legs trying to fist-fuck a rhino. This poem has those juxtapositions also.

(Did you need a content warning? CW: poem)

Tone. Jaylee can do a straight sad poem, I’ve seen it, and they’re great. But he is his deadliest, in my opinion, when he is smiling, when he is giving the audience pleasure as he slips the knife between their ribs.

Structure. The structure of this poem is the setup, and the mirror of and meaning to self that elicits the emotional resonance. The audience is able to open to the felt mastery of the poet’s ability to express, and then receive the poet’s understanding of himself.

Damn, I feel lucky we get to see Jaylee, so thanks to the Lit Slam for recording him. Here he is. #soblessed

Follow along with this year’s contenders for the H. O. Prize for Humorous and Original Poetry by liking us on Facebook!

H. O. Tanager
H. O. Tanager is the author of Autograph Penis: An Adventure Through Competitive Performance Art and Haiku Princess: Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity. You can also find beautiful Haiku Princess prints and more at RedBubble.
H. O. Tanager is the author of Autograph Penis: An Adventure Through Competitive Performance Art and Haiku Princess: Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity. You can also find beautiful Haiku Princess prints and more at RedBubble.