The Shrinking Space Of Poetry

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My original response grew

My original response grew into an essay, published along with Warland's article in "Poetry is Dead" magazine.

You can find it online here:

Chris Gilpin more than 13 years ago

POETRY performances; the line vs the voice

Regarding: "To my ear, however, the majority of writing performed is not deeply rooted in poetry."

I have been thinking about this sentiment for most of the last year. Up until recently I would have agreed with you, until I *stopped* attending spoken word events and started going to poetry readings. The more I listened to page poets reading their work, the more I could see/hear how similar some of their most engaging work was when compared to the well written pieces often heard on a spoken word stage.

The main difference between the two (to my ear) is how the two pieces are spoken/delivered/performed (and how that affects the listener), and not how they are written.

The page poets use the line as a poetic device to invoke reactions for the reader on the page, which often translates to frequent pausing at the end of the line when speaking the piece. This allows for the listener to pay more attention to the subtleties of the piece such as creative use of language, striking metaphors, etc.

In contrast, the spoken word poet is not as concerned with the line (or line break) as their piece is not being read but heard. For the spoken word poet, the voice replaces the line break as a device to invoke reactions in the audience. After an engaging spoken word poem, I might be more likely to remember the sentiment of the poem instead of recalling the poetic devices that were used because of the speed in which it was read But at its very core, *good* spoken word still contains all of the elements of a good written poem including simile, metaphor, active verbs, creative use of language, etc.

In fact many performance poets and spoken word artists have published their words in literary journals once they translate their pieces to the page (including myself), by using the line break as a device or once they start seeing themselves as poets and want to engage the reading audience as well.

Shannon Rayne more than 14 years ago

Spoken Word POETRY

I take exception to this backhanded compliment:

"Spoken Word has grown in leaps and bounds. To my ear, however, the majority of writing performed is not deeply rooted in poetry."

The reason that "page" poetry is on the decline is because it is no longer resonate with the wider public. It has became insular and cryptic. The result of too many poets spending too much time in academia, and workshops run by academics, both of which divorce themselves from broader audiences.

Spoken word poetry is poetry. And, not to put too fine a point on it, it's better. Audiences continue to grow. The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word will have more poets featuring than ever before and most likely, bigger audiences than ever before.

Last year, at the Finals Night for the Vancouver Poetry Slam, I performed in front of 450 cheering, yelling poetry enthusiasts. Your average "page" poetry reading will be lucky to draw a dozen of their friends.

The baby boomers of the 1960s must wake up and realize there is a new movement afoot. One with all the passion and intelligence, and just as many visionary poets, as the one they experienced.

Poetry is not dying. It's passing you by. Join us, or get out of the way.

Chris Gilpin more than 14 years ago

I should say, first, that I

I should say, first, that I am an American who, by virtue of having lived a handful of miles from Canada most of my life (first in Detroit, now Seattle), take more than a passing interest in the vast similarities and often inexplicable differences embedded in the weird cultural congress of our respective countries. The decline in published poetry in the US has been largely ascribed to the withering print-media industry. It seems that in the age of digital media, the world abhors a monograph. I feel that these larger cultural machinations must play an off-stage role in the decline you detect, though a complicated one.

I, for one, find that it is no longer sufficient to be an academic or a writer, one must be a blogger, a tweeter, a savvy re-director of content through social media. For the most part (despite my protestations over newer and ever-more-banal uses of such technologies) I am content to do this, but then there is a nostalgia for the page, for the bookish arts, the analogue. It would be interesting to compare this decline in publishing to the appearance of poetry in the digital landscape. I would suspect that the one is in some way taking up what the other leaves off, with a very remarkable set of consequences for the art as a whole.

Kelly C. Porter more than 14 years ago


Can you recommend a straightforward short book or series to help our writing group get better at writing? Thanks!

The Montana Deep Sunrise gals

Read our answer here!