My Summer Lair featuring Max Powers & Nikhil Melnechuk (Don’t Be Nice)
Published on: May 1 2018
My Summer Lair Chapter #80: What Rhymes With Orange?
Early on in Don’t Be Nice one of the featured poets Joel Francois reveals: “I just don’t want to do great work but also good work.”
Indeed. That’s the soul of a poet. True poets recognize the clichés that dominate the medium and can nimbly sidestep them. Look you can get away with clichés in a movie…maybe even pass some of them off as homages. Books are so widespread that clichés per say don’t dominate the work or the conversations about the work. Music…the medium closest to poetry…suffers from clichés like it’s a virus: soon as it is raining and it is a slow jam about love chances are you know it’s about lost love.
So to declare while also recognizing the distinction between good work and great work is inspiring: it’s a deep Michael Jordan commitment to getting into the gym daily and doing the work. Which really is what Don’t Be Nice is all about: the relentless competition of slam poetry vs the unvarnished soul of a poet. It’s one thing to write; one thing to perform and yet another thing to win. Happily the documentary had its North American Premiere at Hot Docs 2018 so director Max Powers and producer Nikhil Melnechuk were able to visit My Summer Lair.
Don’t Be Nice follows the Bowery Slam Poetry Team in the summer of 2016: Ashley August, Timothy DuWhite, Joel Francois, Sean MEGA Desvignes, Noel Quińońes are the poets and their 2 coaches Jon Sands and Lauren Whitehead as they rigorously prepare for the national championships.
To do good work…to do great work is damn hard. Setbacks are inevitable and pushing through is not easy much less natural. Sometimes when you get knocked down it is comforting to stay down. But as you’ll hear from a cameo from Alissa Host of Sweat and Salt breakthroughs are possible and powerful.
I dig that we discuss Lauren Whitehead’s methods…did she push the kids too hard?
The debate continues…I dunno. We don’t like to talk about the cost of doing good work but damn: it is high.
If you’ve ever a chance to go check out the Bowery Poetry club in NYC go!