The Sunday Poem: Tracey Pontani... On Janis Joplin

Never one to be defined by position, parenthood or place of origin, Tracey Pontani defines herself with passion and verse. An infant care-giver, proud mother of two and New Jersey native, she frames her unique and multifaceted perspective on life through her work. After only 8 months of being a card carrying New Mexican (and only a month and a half of that time actually slamming poetry!), she qualified for the 2008 City Slam Championship. She has since given back to the scene by volunteering at numerous poetry events. She then took that idea of service one step further by picking up the responsibility and honor of organizing Firestorm, Albuquerque's all women's open-mic and poetry slam. Recent nominee at the YWCA Women on the Move Luncheon, Tracey serves New Mexico and the Arts community with her work and her words.

Janis Joplin

"Come on, come on, come on, come on, and take it, take another little piece of my heart now baby"

Go on, take another little piece of her heart now... Sugar. Trust me, she wants you to
and if you ever heard her sing that song, you know it's true, girl could sing the blues.
Product of a dispassionate household, the piano tossed out the back when she was young,
cause her six year old singing voice made her mother feel too much. Nicknamed the "Pig"
by the pretty boys and girls of Port Arthur, Texas, a town as ugly as the residents
who still refuse to acknowledge her beauty to this day. Crucified for her love of black culture,
scathed for her admiration of the melodic music of her Cajun neighbors. She knew she'd never fit in,
so instead, she spit in the face of convention and embraced the feathers and flare
that would one day help, to define her. Cause you may not like her, but you sure as fuck,
were gunna notice her. So as soon as she could, she got the hell outta there,
and with a busted flat in Baton Rouge, she began cry baby cryin' her way into history.
From the back alley bars for beer and booze, to the big stage for validation,
and beer and booze. She relied on alcohol to hide her, was hardest on the men
who loved her hard, but don't say she never tried to warn them cause..."Don't ya know
ya aint nothin more than a one night stand, tomorrow I'll be on my way,
you can catch me if ya can, go on and take me by the hand and play that game again"
Plus she said, "No guy ever made me feel as good as an audience." So she hid her sadness
in a shoebox, left her loneliness on the side of the road, wore her soul on her sleeve,
and she sang for you. And it was there that you could find her, half way through a note and exposed,
where you could see her faults, her fatalism, her vast wisdom, but as quickly as it came,
it was gone, and with her crooked smile and cackling laughter,
she became that tough, belligerent, barroom broad again.
That moanin, wolf wailin, bottle totin, pool shootin, blues bitch again.
And we loved her for it. Some called her a saint, but to me it's an understatement, cause she,
she is my dejected desperado hero, my nobody's girl, my rootless, rebel, sanctified sinner sister,
dead ten years before my birth, but I swear if I listen hard enough, I can feel her there,
even though I know she's gone."Can't be now, can't be now, no it just can't be." But it is,
cause on October 4th, 1970, a hard hit of heroine and a bottle of booze got together and decided to ensure
our hearts would break every time we heard her sing, and they do. Some say it's because
we loved her for her passion, others say we're drawn to her lack of inhibitions,
but I, shit, I just think it's meant to be a mystery, deliberately hidden,
in the raw and dirty genius, of Miss Janis Joplin.*

(*The linebreaks for this poem were changed for web reading. Also Submissions to the Sunday Poem are always welcome. Write to

Views: 147

Comment by cathyray on June 14, 2009 at 11:16am
wow. Miss Janis Joplin, indeed! I still vividly, physically remember seeing her at the Civic Aud right here in the Duke City shortly before she died. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. She had everyone there that night standing on their chairs, crying & screaming. Honey, let me tell ya, that, love, love is like a ball & chain. Tracy has truly captured that feeling. I was a "ugly" girl like Janis but without her talent & beauty. She was brave enough to put it out there, way out there. This poem captures that feeling. Thanks, so much, for the trip this morning.
Comment by Richard V on June 14, 2009 at 3:29pm
i've heard tracey perform this poem a few times. she injects a bluesy, lilting voice and a rhythm that carries the audience away, and then gently sets them back down. if you haven't had a chance to hear her perform, i urge you to do so. she is definitely in the upper tier of our slam poets.
Comment by Margaret Randall on June 16, 2009 at 8:09am
Great reading this poem, and I look forward to hearing the poet read it. Brings me back to my youth.


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