memorial for a brilliant woman

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poetry disappoints me once again...

Once again, I am disappointed by what I love the most- poetry.

This time it took the form of slam poetry, specifically the semi-finals. Five poets bled all over four rounds of dismal and frequently abysmal poetry, with a few drops of perfume tossed in, mere petunias in a much larger onion patch.

The person who should have won did, and the person who should have come in last did. The three in the middle should have been reversed as far as I’m concerned.

To me, a great slam poet is one who weds a good poem with a good performance. What is good, you ask? 1) A common theme made universal, 2) use of language, 3) correct facts and historical perspective, 4) practiced delivery appropriate to the subject, 5) varied tempo, temper, and timbre.

Tired subjects: you (your friends, family, strangers, bums on the street) and your (heroin, sex, food) addiction, you (your sister, daughter, mother, brother, stranger, skank on the streets) and your (rape, incest molestation), you (etc) and how the (government, white man, pimp, parent, etc) mistreated you and how that fucked you up, and last but not least, how God saved you.

Of course, there is always the possibility of the perfect poem emerging from any of these subjects.

Did I mention poems about poems and how your poems mean everything to you and you bleed for them?? I am serious, stop that now. Please.

The top poet started strong but never got better or varied the approach. One poet talked so fast and breathed with great gasps, all the poetry was reduced to sounds, even though the poet enunciated clearly, I can remember NONE of them. One poet tore at heartstrings with wrenching guilt and sad stories meant to rip your heart right out- without ever once involving anyone except by proxy- it was a lifetime movie, not a poem. One poet had studied, mannered delivery but the stories were not always cohesive or interesting. One poet wrote excellent poems, too smart for the audience, too hip, the poet didn’t blame anyone else for bad things, and made sense- and the delivery was pretty damn good-

And you know who you are- and are probably the only participant who will read this.

So, like the slick academic lizard poems heard recently (they can sound like the surface on which they are printed) I was disappointed again by the very thing I love the most.

A list of poets I have heard read recently and would like to hear again: Claudia Emerson, Sandra Beasley, Tom Prunier, Derek Kannemeyer, Wes Childress, and Jean Valentine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

RTD farts an article about poetry, Style panders again

better poetry news from the internet... (Ron Silliman's wonderful blog)

Why poets sound that way

and from Ellen Steinbaum, who came to Richmond a few years ago at Artspace and then returned to do a presentation for the Poetry Society of Virginia.

Words and music

and from Reb Livingston men explain things to me

and oh yeah, STYLE WEEKLY managed to finally give us some ink something in the middle of the month about poetry (I haven't been out yet to get a copy but my comments were apparently edited out to make room for the MFA certified crowd- sigh, some poet just can't get no respect!)

The Richmond Times Dispatch got poetry in on Sunday (if Nikki Giovanni hadn't written a poem about the VT tragedy, would this have appeared?) with a nice bit from Virginia poet laureate Carolyn Foronda, but the sidebar had errors that could have been caught if the writer had googled poetry events in Richmond and checked the LOCAL news (I emailed the reporter- no reply)

1 2 3 4 (this is where she got the wrong time)

I hate to complain again, but geez people- there's so much out there.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

poetry readings and such...why go?

here's some thoughts on poetry readings from poet Mark Wallace and from the James Branch Cabell annual lecture.

Which I attended last night at VCU- A Party of Poets - Keynote speaker: Ellen Bryant Voigt with panelists: Buffy Morgan, Deborah Nystrom, Lucinda Roy, Ron Smith and David Wojahn and moderator: Mary Flinn, senior editor for the online literary journal Blackbird.

Voight delivered an long lecture on Dave Smith and Charles Wright (both of whom I find just tedious and stuck firmly in place- as in, no heart, just observations of their lives- yawn) after which she read one of her poems, a poem so much better than any of theirs it was almost painful. Though her scholarship is indisputable, I wish she'd read poems- HER poems.

The discussion afterwards was a mutual masturbatory celebration of how wonderfully Virginia nurtures poets, apparently because it is swamped with MFA programs that turn out scads of poets to flood the country with their same-same poetry (even when it's not the same, it's the same). I have significant disagreement about how poets are nurtured here- if you aren't in the MFA clan, you don't count (sometimes even after you graduate, as I heard someone behind me whisper).

None of the panel were born in Virginia, and Voight has lived in Vermont forever.

Buffy Morgan and Lucinda Roy stood out as panelists- I do get a little peeved at Morgan's Southern graciousness sometimes- though her remarks are always dead on- she brought up women poets and how the deep south embarrasses her. Roy, now at Virginia Tech from London, reminded us of race, class, and economic disconnects from poetry- a good point, true, but she came off a little one-issue IMO, though she is obviously brilliant- everything she said was well-considered and you could see her listening carefully to the other panelists.

Smith and Wojahn were affable as always but I don't think added much content to the event- I do like them both, they just seemed out of place. Nystrom, in the grand tradition of UVA participants, said little. I don't think they travel well (or play with others).

I believe the whole thing was recorded for Blackbird if you want to hear for yourself. It may be a few days/weeks before they put it up and we'll all have forgotten by then.

The room was full of poets and IMPORTANT people. I wouldn't call it fun, exactly. The buffet was very nice, seemed like mostly townies took advantage and I didn't see an undergrad in site so there was plenty.

No one seemed really happy (except Buffy). Maybe they should all read Wallace's blog.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Job needed: poet, teacher, musician

Anyone have any ideas?

I need a part-time (say 3 days, half days- whatever) job doing something- I've taught all levels if music, piano teaching, piano playing, directed recreation programs, been an administrative assistant, store manager, house cleaner, work with large and small groups, I could be a church secretary, something like that (I do work as an organist/choir director on Sundays, though).

shannp at gmail dot com

just a thought

Saturday, April 05, 2008

why do we choose what we choose?

C. Dale Young asks "What makes us choose what we choose when we write?"

I have little photographs, videos of incidents that flash through my head all the time- as if there is a constant random generator pulling file titles from the past 58 years. They pop up and I usually let them fly by with a nod, but other times they take me into a fugue of anger or regret, nostalgia or grief, then replay replay replay- the same way I listen to one favorite song on a CD thirty or forty times in a row driving to work.

Then a poem comes- or goes, depending on where I am and how soon I can get the gist written down.

Friday, April 04, 2008

At last! Talent is rewarded!

My favorite poet (and I hope someday poet laureate) Tony Hoagland has received a major prize. It is well deserved, I am thrilled for him.

Check out his poems online and buy his books- the Fountain Book Store is your best local choice, please buy from small booksellers, do not patronize Amazon, they are trying to shut out small DIY publishers such as (go here for discussions concerning this).

My favorite lines are from Tony Hoagland's poem


So the avenues we walk down,
full of bodies wearing faces,
are full of hidden talent:
enough to make pianos moan,
sidewalks split,
streetlights deliriously flicker.

There is so much to be afraid of in this world, so much tragedy is at every turn. These lines by Hoagland remind me of the possibilities new faces can hold, how they might open up something entirely new within me. It's the kind of magic that might make a piano moan, a sidewalk split, or something even more incredible that waits, not in fear or anger, but with beauty and hope

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Video Poetry Everywhere

Happy First Day of National Poetry Month!

Here are 15 short poems as animated films-

skip the ad, click on the poems.

Happy First Day of National Poetry Month!

other poetry news

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