Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Poetry News

Stephen Elliott has a nice piece on the spoken word/poetry slam scene in the San Francisco Chronicle. He gets a few facts and dates wrong, pegging the origins at around 1996, when he arrived. Of course by then the slam had been going strong since 1990. He also says "The poetry slams were taken over by real performers, many of whom wrote beautifully, but non-actors couldn't compete with just words," missing poets like Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Robert Karimi and he fails to mention San Francisco and San Jose shared the National Poetry Slam title in 1999. A little digging on his part would have revealed San Jose's first slam in 1991 had 65 poets participate and was organized by Michael Vaughn. San Fransisco hosted the first ever coming together of cities to compete in a poetry slam in 1990 and that event lead to the formation of the National Poetry Slam and was hosted by your blogger. Elliott puts the end of the scene at 2001 and so misses poets like Mike McGee who recently performed a 24-Hour Solo Solstice Poetry Feature. Youth Speaks continues to host amazing events including the 2005 Youth National Poetry Slam, "Brave New Voices," which had over 3,000 people attend. Elliot's Article

Showing even more depth to the San Francisco scene, going back to 1907, is another article from the Chronicle on George Sterling's 'Wine of Wizardry' I think Sterling would have loved the poetry slam. Sterling

Jenny Holzer's "Projections," a brilliant, hypnotic installation of projected texts opened at Mass MoCA's giant Building 5, and runs through Oct. of 2008. She is now using other people's poetry for her art work including the poems of Nobel-winning Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska, including the chilling poem, "The Terrorist.Holtzer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

Thanks for mentioning my Chronicle piece. I am actually aware of an earlier scene. It's just that I wasn't part of it. The scene that happened from 1996 to 2001 was pretty specific and also different from the one that came before it and after. I don't think the article implies that the 96 to 01 scene was the only scene or the best scene. Of course, eras also overlap. The scene I was part of was coming out of punk rock and this other scene was coming out of hip hop and there was a ton of intermingling, but I think punk came earlier and that the hip hop influenced slam has eclipsed it. Of course I'm aware that hip hop and punk also influenced each other.

I'm also very aware of Marc Bamuthi. I love that guy. He's exactly who I'm thinking of when I say, "Many of whom wrote beautifully." Marc does write beautifully, but he is more than a poet, he is a performer as well. There's nothing wrong with that. If he wasn't a performer he would still be a great poet. Still, I don't know of there's room in the slam community anymore for poets that don't have serious performance skills, the way there used to be.