Emanuelee "Outspoken" Bean understands that being a Slam poet isn't for everyone. The process involves performing original work not only for a live audience, but also for a panel of randomly chosen judges who award each poet a competitive score. "A lot of people shy away from it because they say, 'Oh, this is my poem, nobody can judge it; it is what it is.' But the truth is you're getting judged anyway. Even if those people don't have score cards."
A member of the VIP Houston Slam team, Bean describes the Slam process as an unfair game. "But it's so unfair for everybody that no one had an advantage, so it's fair. The reason it's unfair is that you're being judged by someone who has no qualifications. They just walked in a coffee shop, that's their qualifications. And now they get to decide if your poem is any good or not."
Bean and his fellow Slam poets have a favorite trick to level the playing field a bit. "We encourage the audience to boo the judges," he laughs. "Never boo the poet, boo the judges."
What he does: Bean has a standard response when someone asks him what he does for a living. "I usually laugh," he says. "Then I say that I'm a poet full-time and then I explain the process of how I do that."
It's a multi-part process. Bean's a teacher and coach for student poets; he regularly participates in Slam competitions locally and nationally; and he performs his poetry at universities and his one-man show, Converse, in theaters and at festivals. Bean was also nominated for both Houston and Texas poet laureate positions. "I didn't get either one, but it was great just being nominated."
Why he likes it: "I talk a lot. It used to get me in trouble when I was a kid, but now I can pay some bills with it. Honestly, I would do this even if there were no bills to pay."
A Prairie View A&M alum, Bean says he especially enjoys performing. "Beyond just writing the poem, it's applying the poem to your body. Your body is your best prop, and I truly love being able to morph myself with my words. I like being in front of people. And I love that I still get nervous every time I get in front of an audience. I don't want that to ever go away. The best part is just before I step on stage.
"I'm a great believer in ownership of what you say and do, so my poems are one way I can say, 'This is what I stand for. This is what I believe in.' There's no blueprint on how to be a poet or how to be an actor. It happens in different ways for every person. It's kind of scary and it only makes sense if you love it. If you don't love it, you're crazy for not getting a regular job. You need to love it and I l-o-v-e this."
What inspires him: "I lost my brother," Bean says somberly. "That plays on my mind on a daily basis. He was instrumental in my taking this balls-to-the-wall route, for my not half-assing it.
"I work with high school and undergrads, and seeing it click in them, the moment when they get it, that's inspiring."
Bean admits to responding to negative inspiration. "Every time somebody says, 'Aw, man, you're going to fail,' that inspires me to do better. I try to make that fuel for my imagination."
If not this, then what: Surprisingly, Bean's choice for an alternative career doesn't involve performing. "I love trains. I know that's so unexpected, but I really like how romantic they are, how long-distance they are and, at this point, how obsolete they are. If I wasn't a poet, I would want to do something with trains."
If not here, then where: There are only four or five places in the country where being a full-time Slam poet is possible. "I would have to go to New York or Chicago, maybe the Bay Area or Philly.
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What's next: In addition to coaching his team of student poets, Bean has plans to continue performing. "I have more performances lined up and I'm applying for my one-man show to be picked up by some festivals. And, of course, I keep writing; always got to keep writing."
For information about Outspoken Bean, visit his website.
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Barry Moore, architect Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist Ty Doran, young actor Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet Justin Garcia, artist Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer