Monday, February 16, 2009

Poetry Variety Show

Yesterday’s Spoken Word: Page and Stage, put on by the Northampton Arts Council as part of their Four Sundays in February series, was a variety show at its best.

The poets who performed were diverse in the familiar, external ways: ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation. Just as importantly, where art is concerned, they were diverse internally. Their style, content, delivery, and intention were varied amounts and degrees of personal, political, intellectual, scientific, elegiac, avant garde, loud, quiet, reserved, and dramatic.

The three headliners were US Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur and slam poets Taylor Mali and Iyeoka Okoaw. They were joined by members of the Hampshire Slam Collective and UMass MFA candidates. By sharing the stage with each other they implied respect for one another. It was a beautiful thing.

Iyeoka Okoaw performed with a strong, honest voice and powerful imagery. Richard Wilbur read regally. I had to leave early so I didn't get to see Taylor Mali, but I found this on his website: "A Baker's Dozen Secrets of Slam: 13 Tips for Performing Poetry in Public." It's perfect advice for all poets who want to read or perform their work.

I attended the event to support the poetry community – and there was a great showing, as the Academy of Music was nearly filled by several hundred people. Thanks to all who made the show possible!

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