Posts Tagged ‘open mic’

Response Turned Post

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Misc
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A recently tweeted link led me to a post by Daniel Nester on the We Who Are About To Die blog concerning the distraction caused by and distaste found in reading poems aloud from mobile devices (iThings, Droids, etc.). Once upon a time, I would have applauded the author’s rant, but my sympathy has grown over the years upon steady exposure to a growing number of talented poets who opt to read from electronic paper rather than pulp. I honestly found the brash humour in the post funny, in a nun-chuckling-at-a-sinner’s-tale sort of way. One of the most winning lines, “We’re writers; we kill trees; that’s what we do,” does not accurately reflect the overarching theme of the rant, but it makes me grin every time I read it. The image used to head the post is also priceless. I didn’t intend to write so much in response, but anything less than a well-structured argument is not worth reading. So my comment became a post all its own. Enjoy:

I thank you, Daniel Nester. Your post made me laugh like some prejudiced father’s son, who, forced by his own embarrassment at his father’s inappropriate outburst, simultaneously apologizes to the surrounding people while giggling over the faux pas with siblings and friends. If you’re truly one of the “old ones,” scrap the blog and send letters to newspapers (if you have time to write betwixt instances of yelling at children to get off of your lawn).

In your argument/rant, I can see shades of valid points concerning techie pride as well as the appropriateness of affluence as related to the generalized fiscal standing of poets. Pertaining to the former, however, I’ve known poets who read from mobile electronics not with pride in the device itself but the poetry which they’ve stored on it – portability and storage density affording opportunities to call up poems perhaps more appropriate than those originally intended if struck by such circumstance, sympathy, or inspiration.

Regarding the new-money poet vibe I’m picking up on (or perhaps reading too much into), a “reckless disregard for money” has always been associated with a poet’s lifestyle. As credit card companies and a relentlessly marketed consumer culture have sunk their fangs into today’s youth, yuppies, and basically anyone with a passable credit score, I cannot help but see parallels with the likes of Lord Byron, who racked up massive debts during his lifetime, as well as the multitudes of creatives who squander what little cash they have and get themselves into debt for the abundance of life’s p(r)etty little distractions in all the forms they take.

I’m a Romantic as much as the next, and my eyes love the feel of paper when reading as much as my palm does when penning notes. I, too, once felt the exact same way you so perfectly relayed in your post, but all it takes to get over any sort of prejudice is exposure to a healthy community. Close your eyes and concentrate on the speaker’s words (you know…the poetry) if you’re too shallow to not be able to get past the format from which a poet is delivering his or her verse. Bad poetry can be read as easily from a page as it can a screen, so if you find the poetry sub-par, I encourage you to walk out embraced by the full knowledge that nothing was there for you. However, if you walk out based on anything other than content, there’s no telling what you’ve missed, and I pity your loss.


A poet once admitted to me, rather enthusiastically, “If you wanna impress me, shoot me a really good one-liner” (or something to that effect). If guitar riffs are considered hooks in music, why shouldn’t poetry have something similar? Stand-out lines are easily memorable, thus randomly quotable, and inevitably the way people can inspire readership of verse. But when a one-liner is all that defines a poem, can that piece of writing really be considered poetry? Is the zinger all contemporary poetry has to offer?

I’ve spent many a night in myriad venues listening to poets rattle off line after dizzying line of … lines: thoughts that, in and of themselves, were admittedly impressive but that, when meditated upon given the greater context of the poem, seemed more like a stand-alone, audible rhyming dictionary with ADD than anything designed to be a part of something larger than itself. Originally I blamed this disconnect on my own inability to fully absorb the spoken word, especially in rapid-fire succession as is in vogue. If I couldn’t remember all the lines clearly, how was I supposed to connect the disconnects throughout a 3-minute long piece in any meaningful fashion as to reap the intended effect of the poem? However, friends and I have bought books by such poets (whom we were fans/fond of) and been, on average, drastically disappointed in what was lost from mic to page.

I’m not debating the quality of said one-liners; they stand out and on their own for a reason. But most one-liners I hear delivered from the stage seem to be nothing more than self-celebrating linguistic exercises so crammed with thought that they don’t really need to be part of anything else and probably shouldn’t; the author just couldn’t let go. The problem is an odd combination of not knowing when to stop and stopping too frequently. Poems comprised of one-liners often seem a collage of disparate thoughts and ill-aligned images incompetently thrown together in favor of length or stream of thought or simply “because.” It is this lack of control that defeats the purpose of a poem, which is supposed to exhibit more discipline than any other form of writing.

What such potent one-liners should be is built upon. Authors should explore all that line can lead to and make sure its essence and related imagery continue throughout the poem. This is what is known as extended metaphor, which is quickly and sadly becoming a lost art. A crafty poet (that is to say, a poet) should be able to find enough material within a single image to evoke any particular feeling. I do not argue the effectiveness of disconnected and abrasively juxtaposed images, but they must be used for a reason greater than themselves and shock value. A good line might catch the attention of individual audience members, and a series of good lines might keep their focus, but even a series of great lines does not necessarily a solid poem make.

(New) Poetry Spot

Posted: December 25, 2010 in Events
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Annexsign Annex Map

Located at 530 Cookman Ave. in scenic Asbury Park, The Annex is a lounge akin to what once was New Brunswick’s Indigo Jones…except with liquor instead of juice and red walls instead of, well, indigo. Dim lighting and comfy couches define the atmosphere, there are good tunes being pumped through the sound system, and a small stage next to the entrance eagerly accommodates a mic and the soles of poets every Tuesday night for a speakeasy hosted by none other than Asbury Park’s poet laureate Chris Rockwell. A mix of guerilla poet and rock star, Rockwell energizes the crowd with his distinct mix of ribbing humour and understated cool. Everyone who wants to read, from virgins to veterans, is made to feel at home, while everyone else drinks…and talks.