Monday, April 30, 2007

Spoken Beats

The spoken word poem is, to be accurate, the revival of a very old tradition.  Although stated right at the beginning of the book, it is possible that this thought can be easily forgotten when you begin to delve into the actual works found in the book itself.  That idea, that forgetting of the tradition that comes with spoken word, would be a horrible idea.  It is all to easy in reading poetry to forget that poems were born for ease of memorization, and it is the flow, beat, wordplay and rhtyhm that is so often praised (or defamed) in modern music that gives poetry, good poetry, its power.
When reading these poems silently, off the page, when hearing them off of the recordings, when reading them outloud to yourself, all three are a different experience.
The very first poem of the collection, "Poem for the Root Doctor of Rock and Roll", is a prime example of this quality.  Although the collections audio cd has no reading of this poem, it is a magnificent (if extended) bit of rhythm and word-play, opening up with a deluge of slang and poignient visual metaphor, using these same metaphors in more and more refined sense as 'rock and roll' goes from its original progenator, to its more commonly known and accepted practitioners, such as Elvis.
In contrast, and in perhapse a far more impressive display, if again lengthy, is Regie Gibson's 'funknawlegy'.  The poem finds and keeps a fairly steady beat, accelerating and decelerating in the hands of a master of spoken word, using repatition to keep the entire poem from spiralling out of control, and to tie together sundry concepts into a single, unified effort.  In short, these poems each exemplify the reasons spoken word was, and is, such a strong force in poetry; reasons that should prevent spoken poetry from being allowed to, once again, go quietly into the night.

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