I'm not sure what it was but I had an amazing time at Last Poet Standing tonight. Today was the week of 12 poets left and they got a whopper of a prompt: Villanelles. I've tried writing several myself, so I know how difficult it can be, and yet tonight nearly every poet nailed all of the rules.

That's really what Villanelles are, lots of rules. They have a certain number of lines, a strict meter and rhyme scheme, and these two lines repeat over and over again in specific slots, so you have to write it so that those two lines make sense. 

The emcees (Jacob is leaving after this week but there was a lot of people who volunteered to take his place) had a great idea, rather than pull names from a hat, they put each of the poet numbers on stage and had people shout out the poet they wanted to go. It was a good way to get the audience way more involved. They also asked some of the poets questions along the way, which actually led to some amusing moments.

Jacob (Emcee): How did you like writing a villanelle?
Gregory Barker: I like form so this was the easiest week for me.
Jacob: That'll be the only time you hear that tonight.

And while votes were counting they had all the poets come on stage and write a new poem one word at a time.

There was also some great poetry tonight. 

Anna May read a moving piece about what it was like to have bipolar disorder. Steven Duncan, clearly feeling the effect of immunity, wrote a poem about how hard it was to write villanelles (but hey it was in perfect form.) Some of the other highlights were Melissa Miner who made an impassioned plea for throwing all of our shoes out, including the squirm inducing line about her heels as tenderized meat. Andrew Horner, who is on his third Last Poet Standing go around gave what I thought was his best poem ever, form clearly suits him. His poem had him arriving in heaven only to be sent back to earth with a hundred bottles of spray paint. And another poet that I think may have a good chance to go all the way is Gregory Barker. Gregory has managed to entertain every week, this week he talked about his pursuit of a date with a girl with a grin that lived in Berlin. 

Of course as always one of the poets has to go. I was worried that it might have been one of my favorites Bobbie Gross. She started her poem explaining that form poetry is not her strength, and the repeating lines did seem to inhibit her usual imagination, but fortunately her terrific delivery, and excellent choice of disorganization as a theme to justify any minor technical problems sent her flying into the next round.  Unfortunately Carly Eggett did not. I was rooting for Carly, I had found her to be among the strongest poets each of the first two weeks, and while her "Big P Poem" wasn't her best work, I'm sure she would have contributed nicely along the way. 

Best wishes to Carly.

On the other end, Jackie Argyle stole the night. Her poem " '90s man" managed to introduce a strong nostalgia that much of the audience responded to. For the rest of the night the emcees were trying to hook Jackie up with one of the many 90's men in the audience. At one point a volunteer stood up in the back of the room, but didn't have the guts to come up. She'll have immunity next week.

Speaking of next week: The prompt is "It's Valentine's Day and I'm at Last Poet Standing." Which is to the best of my memory the only Last Poet prompt to ever refer to Last Poet Standing, we'll see how that goes. Of course next week is Valentine's day but what's more romantic than poetry. 

We hope to see you there.

This week's Last Poet Standing was electric. For the first time in Last Poet Standing history the competition began only with the fifteen semi-finalists. With nearly seventy poets applying, each of the poets that made it had already proved their mettle. The evening started with each of the poets being introduced to the crowd of nearly three hundred. 

Some of the highlights of the evening:

Elise Angerbauer, a returning poet from last season, demonstrated her control over form in her "Sonnet of the Sandwich." Not only did Angerbauer have complete control over what she was doing she managed to get the audience to laugh as well. 

Elena Van Horn meanwhile may have had the most enduring image of the night. In her poem "Eruption" the ash finally settled into what she described as "Hills of Oreo-ice cream.

Gregory Barker delivered one of the most crowd pleasing poems of the night. "Silent" went into great detail about trying to grapple with your roommate snoring. 

Other poets of note:

Denver Nash read an off the wall piece about the Sphinx giving a man named Dan Planters peanut. Nash brought a copy of the poem on stage and showed the audience that he had designed it to look like the Planters peanut man (the peanut in the top hat.)

On the more serious side, Carly Eggett read a moving poem about discovering the mortality of her father, using interesting super hero imagery. She also had an extended meditation on the word white representing her earlier innocence.

Bobbie Gross, another of the other returning poet, also delivered a moving piece about her relationship with her grandfather using traditional Christian imagery in innovative ways.

The winner of tonight was Melissa Miner. Miner's poem seemed to start off very goofy. She got on stage and took a picture of Hugh Jackman and taped it to the top of the mic stand, and began her "Ode to my Cardboard Cutout of Hugh Jackman." As Miner went on, however, this cardboard cutout became a symbol of the one constant in an otherwise unsure and self-doubting life. In one poem she managed to make the audience both laugh and think deeply about themselves.

On the other hand, as Last Poet goes one poet had to leave tonight, and tonight it was Preston Cathcart. Preston who had been initially cut from the program because he was not there, showed up just as the voting was about to wrap up. The event organizers decided to let him read, but unfortunately he was obviously in a rush and didn't give his poem the reading it deserved. And since most people had already voted by the time he arrived, it was little surprise that he was the one who ended up being cut. Best wishes to Preston in the future.

Other poets who participated last night: Steven Duncan, Burkley Rudd, Jackie Argyle, Sydney Adams, Sherilyn Jensen, Andrew Horner (who is participating for the third straight year), and Anna May.

Next week's prompt is Groundhog's day. I'm looking forward to hearing how the poets can turn the theme into something meaningful and artistic.