It doesn’t matter what I sing, just as long as I sing it with inflection.:: John popper Hook
I think I must have brought the other side of my personality to the poetry venue tonight. A few short weeks ago, I got up on stage, I raved, I ranted, I was blunt and obvious, and fast, and new. My work was well received.
I’m good on stage, and I believe that this is the result of practice. In a former lifetime, I aspired to be an actor. All that now remains of that lifetime is a paragraph buried in a short story that no one has the time to read:
The Grand Mother
Her last audition was too much. The fat, bald director gave her four minutes to give two monologues. Her first was three minutes in length, the second, one. She had a two-minute version of the longer monologue prepared, in case length was a problem. The producer told her that a three minute/one minute combo would be fine. The director had other ideas.
seat and slapped her with his bad, plosive breath.
“You try that three minute crap again, and you can kiss a career in theater goodbye.” Amelia kissed the slug. She didn’t know what else to do. “Goodbye.” she said. The Director had her physically removed. Amelia hated being forced to leave. But, she deserved it. So, she made up her mind. She really was leavingTime is of the essence, apparently, and I think it’s strange the way it loops around itself, bringing repetitions. It was a slow night at The Venerable Old Venue tonight. Many of the hipsters are likely keeping their livers home tonight, after the Fourth of July weekend, and besides, it is summer, after all. I was careful to place my name in the middle of the list, reserved for twenty, but I happened to be third on stage.
I took a risk. Sensing the lull in things, I reached into my bag of tricks for an extra poem, an academic poem, if I dare say so. What do I mean by that? Let’s put it this way. Typical fare at The Venerable Old Venue consists of a variety of subjects and styles, categories to which my poem compares to by seeming like something in a textbook.
Those subjects are politics, sex(uality), politics and sex(uality), and the politics of sex(uality). I understand, believe me, I understand as much as I can from where I am, that there is a lot of frustration there, whole lifetimes of it, and that it is good poetry to release that pain and anger in a welcoming environment. I know I know I know I know already I know. Its just that, well, I actually am listening, and it actually does hurt. It hurts to be begged for money in the street on the way home from work and it hurts to eat such a meager meal myself at the end of a day like that, and then when I spend the money I skimmed from dinner for my entertainment, I end up hurt all over again.
The style for these subjects seems to be one that favors immediacy. The audience can typically be seen scrawling out the poem they are about to perform only moments before the mic goes on and the lights go up, and this is in a bar, where the work can be not only immediate, but lubricated, and it is in a crowded bar, so that, in addition to being ‘edgy’ in all the acceptable ways, and immediate, and lubricated, it is short ‘ albeit for diplomacy’s sake, in case the poet is not to anyone’s liking, and in case there is a line at the mic.
I am all for preaching the cause. What strikes me as redundant is preaching that cause to those who are about to preach it themselves for an extended period of time. It seems like nobody really came here to listen, only, at best, to hear. As in ‘It doesn’t matter what I sing, just as long as I sing it with inflection.’ Something else that strikes me as redundant are the poems written by those students of poetry classes, poems about poetry classes, poems by students who got their money’s worth, clearly.
And here I am ranting, which is what they want. Perhaps I have just discovered why there is so much ranting in the first place.
Anyway, my little academic poem was not well received. It wasn’t immediate enough. It needed to be read slowly. It didn’t have any attitude. It didn’t have no swagger and sway, and I didn’t write it today, and it wasn’t three minutes short enough, so they shooed me offstage. I had saved for last the poem they would have liked most.
All that said, I will return to The Venerable Old Venue, and its spirit of ‘SLAM’ next week, at the same time, with my dinner money and a poem clenched in my fist. I may strongly dislike their rigid expectations, their attention-span limitations, and the fairly democratic time restraints, but I know the alternative all too well, where there is no venerable venue at all, and all the words, no matter how short, they go unread, and unheard as well as un-listened-to. Surely someone in there is listening’ maybe the scribbling one might even pick up an ear. I think something might come out of a compromise between a sentiment like mine and the things that go on in this competitive poetry boxing ring. I’ll come back, because I’m hooked.