His poetry goes out to all those fellows who just don't fit in

Eirik Ott inspired by his life as an outcast

Scene: clubs, bars, nightlife

October 02, 2003|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Eirik Ott was a Dungeons and Dragons kid, a teen-age outcast who was unliked and unnoticed by his peers.

"I was the kid in the back of talented and gifted English [class] who never talked to anybody," Ott said. "I had no friends. I had no girlfriends. I could have been voted the person most likely to be forgotten -- if people had remembered me long enough to vote."

For years, the 36-year-old poet, who also goes by the name Big Poppa E, has used his high-school experience as fodder for a number of creative and poignant works.

One of his efforts, The Wussy Boy Manifesto, is a call to all men who were left out, ignored or made to feel awkward because of their sensitivity. It's a poem that serves to empower artsy or unathletic men who prefer Morrissey to macho cars, he said.

The piece, which Ott wrote in 1999 and performed at the National Poetry Slam Finals in Chicago that same year, struck a chord with like-minded guys around the country.

Since then, the single work has made him an underground legend, a cult hero whose performances pack coffee houses and book stores with fellow wussy boys who hope to hear a live version of the acerbic verse.

Ott has written many great poems since Wussy Boy put him on the map, but the California native admits the work may be his crowning achievement.

"That's kind of like my Stairway to Heaven. ... I've been able to reach out to a lot of people through that poem," he said. And though his current 27-state tour is centered on several newer works, Ott still frequently performs the now-classic rant.

"At the end of the night, there's always someone in the back yelling `Free Bird!' And then I'll dust it off and do it," he said. "If we as poets have hits, then that's a hit."

Ott will recite in Baltimore Monday, when he takes the stage at XandO with fellow poet and touring partner Hilary Thomas.

Performing as the slam duo Broken Word, they'll recite three or four works apiece before battling it out in a slam contest called the Haiku Death Match.

"It's a back and forth competition where we each read a haiku and then the audience judges which one is better," said Thomas.

But the 45-minute show is more than just a reading or a contest, Ott said. Broken Word sessions give the audience hope that they can feel accepted as they are, wussy boys included.

"Some people have come out of the crowd to tell us that they appreciate the message. They say, `It's OK for me to be me,' " said Ott.

And poems that broach other subjects, including nature, rebellion, consumerism, family and relationships, have also begun to touch to the audience, he said.

At "every single place, you reach this sort of flash point, and suddenly you're communicating with this entire audience on an ancient tribal level," Ott said.

Check out Ott and Thomas when they break it down, primitive style, Monday at XandO, at 3003 N. Charles St. For more information, call 410-889-7076. There is a $5 cover charge.

For more club events, see Page 36.

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