For Free

For Free

I decided to stop

giving it away for free

when the bar manager

made it clear my free

wasn’t bringing enough 

in drink sales

drink that cost more

than I could afford

because I was giving it away for free

 

every poet

was expected to give it away for free

that’s how it was done

our opportunity

to give it away for free

was paid for in what the bar earned

we were worth our weight in foam

which is ultimately worthless

because what given away for free

became valueless not priceless 

 

when I decided to stop

giving it away for free

it was as if

I priced myself out of the market

a market that went on

without me

 

giving it away for free

let me     forced me

to devalue myself

because people may be grateful

for free

but they only respect 

what they pay for

and I deserve at least

as much respect

as your next drink

I’ve been asked a few times why I stopped doing spoken word shows or even open stages. I told them that I was tried of seeing bartenders make more in tips than the features were getting. It wasn’t an even playing field with poets struggling to pay printing costs while others were struggling to get grant money. Struggling to be heard at the mic over the chatter of the next features friends didn’t seem worth the effort to me.

When I told one series (now defunct) organizers that I wanted to be paid I was told that so&so, who won such&such prize, featured there for free. It was as if I had an ego problem to be expected remuneration. I declined the honour. I know one performer who declined a ‘show’ where they was expected to give a % of any chapbooks sold to the organizers, after all they made it possible for them to even sell chapbooks.

There are worse horror stories of poets, singers who are expected to be grateful to perform without getting paid, or even getting a cut of the door, while being expected to do all the pr work for the event. 

The only open stage I perform on regularly is Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam mainly to make sure old white cismale queers get some representation 🙂 I turned down Pride as the person asking was sure the ‘exposure’ was enough for me – I said ‘Honey try getting Lavern Cox to appear just for exposure.’ I haven’t been approached since 🙂 I am as supportive of the ‘community’ as it is of me.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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