Monday, July 23, 2007
Poets in Their Natural Habitat: A field trip
the white-eyed poets hide stealthily in their urban habitats, cooing awkward mating rituals before a slack-jawed public applauding like imitating babies. in pin-striped flannel and broken-framed four-eyes they tilt and poke and twitter, laugh and scorn, drink and smoke, mostly hide from the light of the sun. they scratch in pen but the fittest adapt to modern-day technology, the only sub-species erectus to evolve in an age of mass mediated idiocy, they tap-type and multi-mediate, cut paste print and design. it's society's loss they're too blitzed out on hyper realistic chemical bliss to make it to work in the morning, or organize anything more complex than a printing press or an archaic coffee decanter, or they'd surely charm the pants off world peace and let us all have a turn of the pacifist orgies. but why the whiteness of this crowd? is maya angelou too good for these folk? are they too good for her? or is the ninnering of the poets about recipricol embraciture a mere orwellspeak ruse for the segregation of the intelligentia? regardless, the token of chinatown rouses the crowd with the longest and arguably best rendition of a heart luckless story that you gotta hear as it rings across the lonely dead-end libraries across the land of the literate ignoramuses. what seems most likely is that this timid species has failed from fear to look underneath the grotesque pain of creative preaching to the geniuses hidden underneath the grease-soaked throwaways of consumer culture. it takes a bold kind of mouse to bellow from a shit-ditch, so that kind of poet lives communally unheralded in the gutters of the shit of the white lab mice, singing about survival. We raise a toast to the wisdom of the poetologist, who knows where to look for winding words of wisdom recited by beautiful losers (TM L. Cohen) who have risen ever so slightly from the muck, in some cases found like mates, and are close enough to power to pan its appraisals. I salute you poets and poetologists, I'm so glad I found you. Now go forth, multiply, and realize that there are like-talented minds in all different bodies, equally toxic and afraid of the sun, yet willingly able to weave magic with words. share in their wisdom and your own, they can only make you stronger.
Except I have the disconcerting habit of saying "dude" all too often. Bad habit of youth. Like many. Peace out.
this was a really cool event, but yeah it amazes me how the poets really looked the part, and how i so don't.
All: I've edited this now so the poem and pictures appear together as originally intended.
I dont know what cynical part of my brain makes me irked at some of these events- but my impatience with self aggrandizers is part of the problem. I love poets and their work, what I DONT love are the requisite props and outfits and groupthink tendencies.
Yuppies dabbling in poor-couture bohemia. Feh!
I need more from a scene.
Some sincerity. SOmething genuine.
But, like with every in-group, I felt some of those less happy tendencies you speak of, and I also wondered why all but one of the featured poets happened to be white in a city where most people aren't. I don't actually think there's an exclusion conspiracy going on, and it's not like people of colour are beating on the doors somewhere trying in vain to get in on this little event. But anytime I see a crowd of white people in Toronto I wonder the marketing, and why it failed to reach the rest of the city.
Mytopia: Thanks, it was great fun and they encouraged us to photograph and document our 'finds' for the day, which was a nice touch.
This one sounds a little organized almost like everyone had an assigned location rather than just going into the middle of an events crowd and without taking away from the organized entertainment or event perform.
One thing I have to mention in a slam props and anything other than the written piece if needed (most memorize) will disqualify you from that round of competition.
Now to the racial disparity, there is the same problem here, when I hosted the open mic I made it a passion to bring in Black poets to perform for White audiences so their would be a co-mingling and honestly at first it was "what are they doing here" while at the same time the venues I read at where compromised primarily of Black audiences which first it was just a sort of this is our stage; "polite applause now get off the stage." sort of reaction but by the time I stopped hosting and was unable to get to the venues I read at, both groups excepted each other and the culturally different poetry presented.
About the selling of chap books and cd's it is the way some of these peole support their car to get them from venue to venue, these are the travelers looking to make a rep and at other times it is just a way to be able get to eat something because the jobs usually sucks.
I know more people with MFA's and MSW's that have gotten good enough to make a living at poetry but they are few. most of the rest want to do it full time, write and perform but need another gig to be able to pay the rent so this event was another prop on the poetic resume.
Poets are just as passionate about their writing as any other artists, to the point where some simply take days to find the right word. And others (me) just tippity tap it off on the keyboard, read it once or twice maybe change a phrase or a word then hit post.
But I have to get my transportation act together because slam season starts in two months and now there are going to be at least two slam teams from Detroit so I have to get my act together and start performing some of the pieces i have written since April.
You know, I am sometimes shocked to find there are people gathering that write. Poetry, mystery novels, whatever. I have never been to such a gathering. Is the purpose to find a mate? I have noticed a few stoy and poetry slams advertised in the paper but have never attended, mostly for fear. Fear of what, I am not sure.
I am only friends with a couple of other people who write (off the internet, anyways.) One of them writes poems to get in girls pants, the other writes war stories.
Behind Blue Eyes
Poets are scored on performance as well as their words.
slams were started in 1983 in Chicago by a guy whose name no one remembers but in America and some other countries they have become a venue to draw people to the spoken word performed. In September in Austin Texas there will be a minimum of 50 different teams from around the country competing, not for cash, but a trophy and bragging rights for their home town poets. with each team funding their own way to the slam, including accommodations and food for the week, there are no freebies.
Although there are individual slam venues that pay cash to the winners of the slam, up to $500, in these venues believe me when I tell you that by the time the third round (usually the final round) these performance poets are bringing out their best work and are usually (if they don't stumble verbally) trying to nail a 10 on every scoreboard & the audience to the wall with words.
A slam piece of poetry has to be finished in 3 minutes 10 seconds and every second over that gets a deduction in score.
Yes some poets write with the intent of "getting into a girls pants" and some can only write about a certain subject that they are familiar with or passionate about (war stories), all I can say about the former is if it's consentual, then the poet achieved his goal but my experience from viewing this happen is it usually makes enemies or creates hard feelings between two people as for the latter that person needs to read more.
Poetry today is becoming fast a form of individual protest against a societal need, or a cultural imbalance. The love poetry is fine and well but in performance, audiences seem to want it to be subtly erotic. Personally I prefer to make a statement of some kind and am not a fan of the "love poetry" genre.
When I slam I don't want the audience left thinking about what's in their jeans but what they can do to make the world different. sometimes i will just try to give them a laugh, lighten the load from a weeks worth of work.
Detroit, has many venues for performance poets, but it is still not a mainstream form of Friday or Saturday entertainment and is trying to get above ground here.
If you see a slam advertised i suggest you take a friend who is open to new experiences and go, you may be amazed at what a person in competition can do without any props to wow an audience and woo the judges for that coveted 10.
TC: well, the humour comes more from the festival organizers than me - i just took pictures and wrote a little ditty.
Trev: yeah, i share your fear, and your ignorance as to what it's of. but i'm glad i went to this, and i really should go to more, because they provide a professional community for one who wants to be a professional writer and artist.
BBE: yeah. fortunately these folks were pretty genuine, even as they played a part. i think that false element happens when people care more about identity than art or truthful expression.
I loved your poetologists rant.
This makes me think about an open mic night I used to play wherre there was poetry and music.
One guy came out painted completely orange and did some stuff about self-tanning and racism that just didn't work for me. Everyone looked on in earnest and nodded like they understood, but I could see in the way that they shuffled and scratched that, really, they didn't.
The next guy who came out blew him out of the water with some amazing, abstract yet direct social commentary and beautiful language. All his colour was in his words, and the audience saw it.
They didn't move at all
I do joke around a bit about the "persona" stuff, but mostly because I think the snobbery and elitism is a real departure from the ways I see poetry and these events as opportunitites to include marginalized groups as opposed to creating yet another venue where its the Yuppie White Man's world.
I see many poets thumb their noses at slams, and "street poets" who are trying to use their voices for change- because they are perhaps less academic. THAT is what I have a problem with.
I think its ok to use humor to call out the things that trouble us.
Crashie: I saw a guy hurdle 7 poets in one jump one time.
Lynn: yeah, why can't we have poetry from the gutters to the classrooms and back? no one can monopolize it.
Also big thanks to Okami, who was very kind in emailng me and commenting very good and rational suggestions which probably should have worked but, alas, didn't. Okami get a Kindness to Strangers award.