POET'S CORNER by Jeff Hartzer
#010: March 2005
WORDS: Recorded, Published, or Performed
Last month I wrote that in times gone by poetry and storytelling were spoken aloud as part of an oral tradition. News and views, sometimes controversial were delivered by town criers, bards, minstrels, and traveling performers of various sorts. Slowly publishing evolved and then writing and reading were taught to the masses. Books of all sorts came to be very popular and for a long time was the only way of reaching large audiences.
Nowadays we are surrounded by mass communication: movies, TV, radio, the Internet, cell phones, magazines ... Books are still very popular, not only in the traditional form, but also online or on tape or CD or on one’s iPod. And poetry, good and bad, can be found in all those media. More and more poets are “publishing” their works on the Internet, as well as in magazines and books (and the occasional newspaper). Many written poems appear dry on paper and are rejected by publishers. A voice gives a poem its real life and more and more poets are recording readings of their poetry on CD.
I confess my favorite form for poetry is still the old (very old) tradition of live performance, although not all poets are gifted performers. I once heard Raymond Carver, a poet/writer genius, read his work and it was one of the worst performances I ever attended. Quiet, minimalist, flat. But his also very gifted wife Tess Gallagher was a joy to hear.
But live performance of poetry does not have to be a dry reading by the poet. Russell Simmons hosts Def Poetry Jam on HBO in which poets deliver their works in highly animated, even theatrical fashion. Poetry Slams take that style a step further, having poets compete, receiving points not only for content but also for their style in delivery. Some add musical accompaniment. In a way, this is nothing new. The beat poets of the 1950s were known for combining poetry with jazz music, which was just their version of the bards of old.
And then there is Theater, the performance tradition of The Bard, himself: William Shakespeare. You need not speak your poetry yourself. Your poetry might come alive on the stage in costume and movement. You must find your true voice in the words you put together, but ironically the best way to communicate your words to others may be through the voices of others.
Our next POET’S NIGHT OUT at the AirDance ArtSpace on Saturday night, March 19th, will feature a trio of local poets: Dale Harris, Jennifer Frank, and Maria Leyba. Doors open at 7 p.m. for an open mike sign-in. Event begins at 7:30 and admission is $5.00. Dale Harris will be offering her poetry CDs for sale. Our last POET’S NIGHT OUT of the season will be April 30th, featuring Jeff Hartzer and my theatrical wife Debra Landau performing some of my words in dance and drama. If you’re interested in poetry slams, check out www.abqslams.org, the official site of the Albuquerque Poetry Slam community, which has a link to the National Poetry Slam to play here in Albuquerque August 10-13, 2005.