Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Museum's Block Party

The Bowery Poetry Club took part in the New Museum’s “Block Party,” on Saturday, July 19th at Sara Roosevelt Park. The audience was mostly young families and we helped the kids become, “Bowery Poets,” by writing and performing poems with them. We would have each kid write an acrostic poem starting by writing their name with letters going down the page like this


Then each letter would start a description of the kid, or a favorite food, or animal or just a fun word. The first poem was from a one and a half year old named ALI and his mom helped a bit. It came out like this:

All consuming
I did it!

Ali shouted out the last line. We would then perform the poem with the family chanting each line and having the family chant back in a call and response. We worked with about 40 families and it was a lot of fun. My favorite poem was not and acrostic but an sort of oral history as poem, by a woman who said she was not a poet and could never write a poem. As she started to talk and describe her life in the neighborhood, I asked her to slow down so I could write down what she was saying. Here is Mrs. Lee’s poem:

If I’m hungry
I eat.
I go to Katz’s.
I get pastrami.
I get a knish.
For 35 years I’ve lived here.
You can say 40 years, since 1967.
My landlord, 3rd landlord, he’s nice, he fixes it up for everybody.
Sion that’s his name.
There’s 5 of us.
I’m the history of Ludlow street.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Borders Open- Door Poetry

Here is a link to Episode Four of this fun series created by Anthony Tedesco and Martha Sager- Borders Open- Door Poetry. My poem "We Are Forget," is included along with work of Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Franz Wright, Tara Hardy, Kim Addonizio and Jorie Graham. It was shot at the Bowery Poetry Club and you can see some great shots of the Walt Whitman light-brit sculpture in the background. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Precision Poetry Drill Team does Howl

This event took place on March 26. 2008 at the Bronx Library with poets from Urban Word NYC. Check out the electronic crawl above the poets. I had the librarian program it with the opening lines from "Howl." My adaptation of Howl was also performed by another group of Urban Word poets at Lincoln Center Outdoors Festival last summer. This multi-voice scoring was first performed at the High Mayhem Festival in Santa Fe on Oct. 7th, 2006, on the 50th anniversary of what was long thought to be Ginsberg's first reading of "Howl." I have found it to be an effective way to introduce young poets to Beat Poetry. Jack Kerouac wrote in "The Dharma Bums" -- "I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night.'' Recently a recording of Ginsberg reading "Howl" at Reed College in March of 1956 has surfaced.

The pedagogy I employ in working with young poets is based on the concept of scoring classic poems to be recited as multi-voiced performance pieces. We work under the title of Precision Poetry Drill Team. By learning to perform poems such as the “The Tyger,” or "Howl," the students experience the poems first as a poet or performer. The chorus or multi-voiced recitation of the poem allows the group to quickly come up to professional performance level.

Student groups that I have worked with in addition to the performances of "Howl," have performed a festival for over 20,000 people, been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered, and have been hired by the Santa Fe Opera to write and perform an original piece on the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. There is a chapter in "How to Make a Living as a Poet," on the concept of the Precision Poetry Drill Team and examples of how to score poems for multi-voices.