A: Don't care about winning.
Okay, so it's slightly oversimplified. More & more I'm realizing that it's the community that poetry slams such a draw. Last night at the Burlington Slam Project there were only 4 slammers (myself included). So I thought that, despite the fact that both of the pieces were new and going to be read off the page, I might have a slim chance of winning my first slam. The first poem I did was called "Puntuated Hate For The Man". With it I sang in a performance for the first time. I got my first 10 at a slam (mind you it was my wife who gave me the score). The poem I did for the second round is a very new piece called "Why Do I Do What I Do". In this poem I ponder out loud why I try to write & perform poetry. Near the end I get humble by asking not to get a score above 4 before asking for no scores. I close the piece by asking for the audiences heart instead. Because "I Do What I Do" in order to share my heart with them.
In the end my total score was 52.3. I was just .9 points behind the winner, Yogi, who got 53.2 points. Upon reflection I think I should have done one of my more polished pieces (Double Double) and go for a higher score with more performance. But it probably wouldn't have been enough. Yogi had an amazing second round score with a poem about his hands.
All of this, belive it or not, leads me back to my original reason for this post: How To Win A Poetry Slam. Even though I want to win a slam, my original answer does make sense. It's about focus. Slowly but surely my focus is shifting. A little less on winning the slam (& of course the prize money) and a little more on improving my poetry and relationships with other poets.