And the Word-Warrior Festival hath ended

I left my iPod at home today. For the first time in quite a while since I got it, I purposely left it at home. I wanted to make sure the words of the story tellers rang loud in my ears and weren’t drowned out by the music, even if the music is some of my favorite stuff.

I could tell as I left that summer is drawing it’s last cyclical breath. It was freezing at 7:00 in the morning. I understand freezing at 5 a.m., but around 7 it should be getting at least a little warmer….right?

By the time I got to the festival, it had warmed up a bit. I grabbed breakfast and basked in the glowing harmonies of three harpists. The music was fitting for the festival. Hopeful. Warm. And overall, delightful.

Then, it was off to the first show. This happened to be with the storyteller I mentioned yesterday, Susan Reed, and the the storyteller I wanted to see, Rex Ellis. To kick things off, a junior-high-school Youth Teller (already developing a repertoire of tales-she won a storytelling contest and according to the MC is a storytelling olympian) told us a story about the little green man who’d jump through the window and make life miserable-initially the LGM was an excuse, but then one day he really did jump through the window…

Like her older counterparts, Ms. Aubrey Watts is developing a knack for the oral tradition. Dramatic vocal inflections, wide, exaggerated gestures, pantomiming characters postures–she has the potential for bardic greatness.

Susan Reed followed, and once again shone. I’ve never heard the word “chrysalis” sung so perfectly (at that point she was singing and telling a tale about the life cycle of a butterfly). And then:

Rex Ellis.

O.M.G. Wow. He was good. No, good is an understatement. Let’s just say he recieved a standing ovation. I was one of the first to give it.

His tale took me in from the very beginning and then led me on a roller coaster journey. It was happy, in places-very lighthearted and innocent. It was sad in some places, and I could feel myself traveling down that sorrowful place with the character. It was hopeful.

Never before would I have believed a story could be so heartwarming/heartwrenching.


Thank goodness I went to see him. I’m still in shock at his storytelling ability.

After that was over it was time for some more Motoko who told us some terrifying ghost stories from Japan. When I got to the tent–er…canopy…the MC informed us twice that it was a canopy–not a tent–because there were no sides–and it was getting full. 5 minutes early and the prime seats in the front row were GONE! Grr (and most of the taken spaces were “saved” spaces. I don’t love that habit sometimes.). So her reputation as master storyteller definitely got around.

Then came lunch. A quick walk to the food court area revealed how many people were actually at the festival. There were lines that would blow your mind. It was ridiculous! The funny thing is that right before I’d reached the Bonneville canopy where Motoko was to perform, I noticed a line at a food place not with the other food vendors. At the time I smirked thinking how silly it was that they were eating lunch–I mean, it wasn’t even lunchtime yet!

Now I realize how smart they were. I didn’t eat until after the first performance after lunch ended. 😉

So after lunch I went to see Victoria Burnett who performed a “One Woman Show” about the little known Buffalo Soldiers. Her tale including elaborate costuming as well as singing. And wow that woman can definitely sing as well as spin words into tales so rich with action and drama, it’ll make your head spin. There’s little I can say that will capture her essence. Let’s just say that I was enraptured by her story and followed her every step of the way. I do believe I’ll remember character/real historical person Cathay Williams (aka William Cathay) for the rest of my life. For those of you who don’t know her…Let’s just say she was a real life Mulan. She joined the army and managed to hide her femaleness for a whole two years. Then she got ill and the doctor had to see her. Ms. Williams didn’t share Mulan’s ending…no, due to her “lying” about her identity and disregarding entirely her two years of service to the Buffalo Soldiers, she was dishonorably discharged.

So after that I went to the program entitled “Fairy Tales: Twice Twisted, Twice Told” with Linda Gorham and Megan Hicks. This was all in fun. Gorham twisted her tales via props and unsung heros, Motown, and words ending with -ation and -ization. Megan Hicks, well… I was kind of worried when she told us that her fairy tales suddenly had groundhogs appearing in them. But she pulled off her twisted tales perfectly. I was impressed, especially since I don’t love groundhogs.

After, I decided to call it a day, despite the fact that I missed one more session by leaving early. Honestly, a whole day there is worthwhile, but it’s hard to be confined to those wretched fold out seats. And my head was so full I don’t know that I could manage any more inspiration than that. So very happily and contented, I went on my way home.

But of course like all stories, mine didn’t end there. I decided to drop by Barnes and Noble, pick up a few books and have a cold drink. And as luck would have it I found some books on an art form similar to storytelling–slam poetry. I’ve been getting back into slam poetry-at least as an appreciator-and so ended up buying two books featuring the words from the revolutionaries themselves. For slam poetry isn’t just about poetry, it’s active. It’s not the kind of stuff you’ll read about nature-unless it’s the depreciation of nature-and romance-unless there’s a twist (but not in the Robert Browning way,

I hope) and one of them featured an audio CD. I love hearing the poets perform their own pieces, stressing the right syllables, emphasizing words you wouldn’t have known to emphasize just reading it on a page. I took it home with me (called “The Spoken Word Revolution” and I just now found out that someone that it would be funny to take the CD. So I’ll ask of you: if you found this out too late would you follow up with the bookstore, knowing that you got what looks like the only copy and you know you still wanna keep it–or just let it be? This is something of a conundrum for me. I’ll prob’ly follow up though, because I do feel ripped off.

I also bought a book entitled “ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe”. Remember how I said I doubted I could be any more inspired than I was when I left the festival? I was way wrong. Walking home from the bus stop tonight, after having read several random selections from that book I was making up my own “spoken word” poetry-freestyle of course. I put a rhythm to everything I thought. Isn’t it funny how voices of the revolution can be bought from your national bookseller, the head of capitalism?

Anyway. Long story short, this book may be my version of the bible.

So here’s a salute to word warriors–be they storytellers or slam poets. The art of spoken word is not dead, it’s alive in so many ways. Support it! You’ll be glad you did 🙂


Rex Ellis
Susan Reed
Victoria Burnett
Linda Gorham
Megan Hicks

Alix Olson
Andrea Gibson
Staceyann Chin

And with that, I’m calling it a night. I cannot tell you how much it inspires me to see the art of the spoken word not only alive, but flourishing, even in places like good-ol’-very-distant Provo Canyon. I now have a new appreciation for hearing stories aloud, for words that once spoken develop a rhythm, a musical sound not requiring instrumental backing. I apologize for the lack of pictures tonight–the stories were too perfect and taking a picture…well, there would go the moment. We can only ever have one moment, and I’d rather be present than just an observer.


2 thoughts on “And the Word-Warrior Festival hath ended

  1. bluefish September 3, 2008 / 5:28 pm

    I didn’t know about this; I wish I would have, so I could have gone. Storytelling is an important part of our identities, I feel. So much of who we are and what we do is based in the way we perceive stories. It’s great that you had a chance to be a part of this!

  2. riotgrrrlrevolution September 3, 2008 / 6:24 pm

    Shame on me for not passing the word along. I thought most in UT were familiar with it. Let’s try it again next year? 🙂

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