Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Is and What Should Never Be...Poetry?

Last week, the National Poetry Slam was held in Florida. Besides a passing nod of my cyber head at the fact that San Francisco took third place, I was not involved or interested in the proceedings at all. In fact, having participated in a "slam" as a non-slam poet, and witnessing the honors of the night go to what could only be described as a comedy routine with rhythm, not to mention the gads of bad slam poetry I received as a Poetry 210 teacher, I am downright averse to slam.

Yet this is an aversion I struggle with because, while I am not aesthetically fulfilled by such writing, I must admit that it fulfills one of poetry's three original offices: song, prayer, and spell. Slam poetry is, of course, really song, and in that sense, I can appreciate good slam poetry. When it is good, it can even evoke prayer-like qualities, as in Suheir Hammad's collection, Breaking Poems, which uses the rhythm-centric constraints of slam poetry to invent a new language. But, the critical devil in me pipes up, the bad slam poetry is sooooo baaaaad.

Well, I tell myself, there's loads of bad "literary" poetry out there as well. In fact, I've got a whole box of it that I've written! Just as the bad movies, pop songs, reality T.V. shows, and boy bands vastly outnumber the good, truly fantastic writing of all genres is similarly outnumbered. After all, not everyone is a Dickens or a Dickinson. Perhaps I should be more thankful for events such as the NPS, which present the best of the best to the nation. I was truly thankful to read this blog post by Tod Caviness, a slam poet who is similarly conflicted by his craft. As writers, of whatever genre, we should all keep our pomposity and snobbery in check, and carry on with the spirit of humility and inclusiveness.


The Storialist said...

This is an excellent point.

I frequently agree with you about slam poetry.

Shane Koyczan is another who is soooooo goooooooooood. So funny and poignant and just impossible not to like.

Katie Cappello said...

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check him out.