The performance versus 'writing' argument is not so much an argument as two
jumbled acrobatic plains of thought that don't meet. The isolation of the
two owing to the contrasting points of origin.
This stated, there are poets who seek by verbal performance a theatre for
their poetry. Verbal brilliance. Talkers.
These I should think should be evaluated individually on their own merit.
Though the performance poet ("talker) often reaches an enlightened level of
boredom, as we hear his or her voice providing false bravado to weak lines,
forced meaning. Though sometimes poetry does intrude on the poetic speeches.
Wild gestures, hysterical looks that usually one finds on frightened animals
A hat is often worn and tossed into the crowd as a form of punctuation.
What should we get from the performance artist? The fellow who prefers to
talk his poems accompanied by saxophone. Jazz piano. The solipsistic drone
of the performance poet talking his/her poems in the air.
As they don't survive, perhaps can't survive the page. Got to resurrect,
camouflage the words. Protest the conspiracy against the forces of society
that don't address my ascendancy, my gift for talking my verse. My natural
innerself, which somehow doesn't make it to the printed page. Rather than
brilliance of my verbal voice what arrives on the printed page is printed
words. How utterly disgusting and old-fashioned. If my voice is sweet, then
the words I speak must also be sweet.
The performance poet making hay of those who would rather listen and watch
the performance. Society more visually-oriented and theatre-going. Readers
not his cup of tea. He/she seeks listeners. The in-crowd that can't get in.
The poets talk among themselves,
the oral tradition is quite apparent,
it is the language of poetry they speak,
and write down what they say.
The poem, thus, is talking,
when previously the silent era was all we had.
We listen. Even when we read, we're listening,
not so much reading, rather listening.
The poem is talking not to itself.
The poem is talking to us. It's the talkies.
Conversational poetry. Prose poetry.
These colorful transcriptions of verse
quite poetical without being poetry,
full of er and uh and duh and uh-huh,
full of bits of hair and string and grass.
The earthy voice plants the poem
in the ear and waits for a bloom.
The ear becomes the page,
a book opens when someone speaks.
The voice becomes the poem
and the poem becomes the voice.
It's the talkies.
Charlie Chaplin's dead,
but now we hear the words he said.
The opaque words have burst outloud,
the poem bursts outloud and wakes
us like someone stumbling in the dark.
It's the talkies. Poems let go in fragments,
words interrupting themselves in midsentence
to sing or chatter or sprinkle us with holy water.
And shocked by the unintelligibility of poets speaking
and less and less following their loose speech or slang ---
an allusive or emotional outburst in the air ---
the interlocutors prose takes the form of baby talk.
It's the talkies. Goo-goo, goo-goo. Goochie-goo.
Poetry should take a vow of silence.
Cut out poetry's tongue. Let's all be deaf and dumb.
Express only that which is inexpressible,
speak only what the unspeakable have not spoken,
or what has not recently been spoken ---
a poem should speak only when spoken to.
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