In two nights' time I will be participating in the Van Slam's Second annual Improv Slam.

Here's the deal: lurid and lascivious phrases are cut out of newspaper headlines. The performers are summonned to stage on the basis of in what order their names are drawn out of the pitcher. When their turn comes up they themselves draw one of the newspaper clippings to provide them with the impetus and inspiration for the poem they will be performing 60 seconds later. The poem is expected to proceed for a duration in the environs of three minutes.

That is improvisation poetry in a way that typed words on a screen can never be, because you have the option (even if it goes unexercised) of the backspace key, because you can go for a drink of water and think about what you're going to say and come back five minutes later.

On a stage, these are not options. You read a poem piped in from the phlogiston, or you crash and burn in front of a crowd.

Did I mention I was a masochist?

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