Motion and Imagery: Slam poet “Mighty” Mike McGee hits UAF

Lilly Necker / Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 11, 2011

Slam poet "Mighty" Mike McGee performing on stage of the Wood Center Ballroom on Oct. 4, 2011. McGee has been on tour for roughly eight years and is "so happy to be back in Alaska after five years!" McGee said. Lilly Necker/Sun Star

Slam poet "Mighty" Mike McGee performing on stage of the Wood Center Ballroom on Oct. 4, 2011. McGee has been on tour for roughly eight years and is "so happy to be back in Alaska after five years!" McGee said. Lilly Necker/Sun Star

Mike McGee entered the Wood Center Ballrom’s stage on Oct. 4 dressed entirely in black, down to the slightly-oversize black-framed glasses competing with his large reddish beard.

When the 34-year-old told a story about a fort in the Fairbanks Airport when he first ventured to Alaska five years ago, some audience members’ smiles turned into crying laughter.

“I am so glad that I can finally tell this story, after all these years, in a place where it belongs,” McGee said after finishing the story.

For the last eight years, McGee has earned a living as a professional slam poet. In 2003 he won the National Poetry Slam Individual Grand Championship. McGee also won the 2006 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, which made him the first person to attain both titles, according to his website. McGee was also one of the first U.S. poets to perform at the University of Paris and the Glastonbury Festival in the United Kingdom, according to his site.

McGee is a stand-up comedian with a penchant for body sounds of all kinds and the ability “to slam about the majesty of macaroni and cheese and the gentle beauty of pudding,” Michael Shaeffer said.

Shaeffer, 42, an English and poetry teacher at West Valley High, was the first-place winner of the most recent open poetry slam  at the Wood Center. He won the opportunity to perform with McGee.

“The first time I saw Mike on stage was about five years ago in Minneapolis. I was really impressed,” Shaeffer said. “Lucky me, I met him two years ago again on the airport in Florida and forced him to take a demo tape of my own that day! Never saw him again until this day today.”

Shaeffer belted out his poem “Love is a Story Problem” to honor comic book superheroes he liked when he was a kid. The audience responded with thunderous applause.

“I love the competition and enjoy being on stage,” Shaeffer said. “But I also want to show my students with my performance how entertaining poetry can be and that you don’t have to fall asleep listening to it.”

The Student Activity Office (SAO) hosted the event. SAO Assistant Director Cody Rogers organizes all the poetry events during the semester.

“I love the motion and imagery of poetry slam,” Rogers said, “and slam poetry is such a fun way for our students to learn how to express their experiences and feelings. I think it’s really important for them to see a professional and learn how to do that.”

McGee showed by example that there can be an unexpected personality beneath a goofy-looking appearance. McGee slams full of fervor, raising his voice when he talks about being on the road for the last eight years and the resulting loneliness.

McGee’s true self showed out from under the knee socks and nerd glasses when he said lines like, “I’m tired of feeling guilty for wanting to be a lover / and thought about the way I think of others.”

McGee stuck to a concise message: “don’t forget this time in your life now. Hold on to it, be aware of your surroundings as you can be, suck it up and don’t be afraid of love,” he said.

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