In 2009, I attended a local poetry reading at a Blenz coffee shop to hear what the local poets were offering up. Unfortunately one poet had a chip on her shoulder that needed attending. She walked on stage. Stepped too closely to the mike, breathed heavy breaths, then belted out, “George Bush is a serpent and 9/11 was an inside job.” The audience silenced, then the espresso machine steamed in reaction.
Yes, we have all been to poetry readings that have felt like a long ceremonious session of quiet talkers, yelling slobbers, egos and plain boring poetry. The poet has always been a shy creature, but why then do they continue to go in front of a microphone and run through their words with a dull monotone? There are many exceptions to this rule, but there still lies the problem of boring poetry readings. The slow murmur of the poet, the attentive fans, and the collective “ahh, yes” at the end of the poem.
On the flip side, there are the Poetry Slams. Poetry Slams are popular across Canada, and can be highly stimulating, but it's rare that you hear a piece that really gets you thinking and sticks with you past the performance. There is a deep competition between the written word poets and the spoken word poets. Common arguments are that the written word poets are rather dull in their presentation. While, spoken word poets have been said to present material that would fall flat on a page. So why is it that the oral tradition has lost its philosophical power, and the written word needs to come with a pillow and sleeping bag?
In order to respect the origins of poetry, the tradition of oral and written should merge together to create a wonderful performance. One that speaks to you initially but lingers through the night and into your slumber.
Are you a poetry reader, slammer, or both? Let us know your thoughts.