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Poetry as Performance-Oriented

A good photo represents animated performance. That is a photo will report what is good for a photo and not be loyal to represent what is proportionally happening in poetry.

Some poetry can’t be excerpted and convey a sense of what it is and how it works. Some performance has to be experienced rather than summarized.

How to portray poetry in the community in words or photos? Why do we perform poetry as we do?

Is poetry performed each time we type a poem out and email it? Or photocopy it? When John Baker shows us Late Ripeness by Czeslaw Milosz without a word, is that a performance of poetry based on it being expressed, in a context of words around, in a font and with that spacing of page in the world? Or lend a book and urge someone to read it?

Poetry is an internal thing between the ears. How would that be portrayed visually and distinctly to be different from a face at resting pleasure or a critically thinking face on any subject?

Why do we perform poetry as a band plays music live? Why not static page or CD as the sole expression? Is there not more meaning with more variations, a poem finding another self as it collects a patina or reaction, non-reactions from different people, learns itself and its different potentials based on intonations, based on competing with interrupting or competing noises, a bad room vibe, a wonderful vibe in room, a context of poems that set it up for fitting or contrast? Can a poem be alive when only in print or in one definitive recitation? Or must a poem be carried forward longitudinally to be more than a foetus of a poem?

Why would we build a formal context for expressing poems? Why not just read it to a friend or in a friendly circle, or to a hostile indifferent room not built for ideas but, say, not blocking the screen as some sport is being played, or another art is portrayed on orchestral stage? What does a performance or a poem do for the poem?

One doesn’t want to stand in the way of what is to come across and block views with distracting obstructions unless obstructions and difficulty are part of the point, but that takes a certain audience to tolerate and play in the mixed message of “listen to me” and “I’m going to make this hard for you”. We want listeners/readers to be playing the same game. A book, a set form, like pdf or web page or CD or broadsheet, allows a participant in the poem to pick a time to engage that is asynchronous with the making of the meaning. If there is live performance, the readers/speaker/writer collaborate to make a meaning with a chemical reaction of being present with one another. The interaction makes a different version of the poem, nuancing. That bring it to storytelling, communication, responsibility and responsiveness and adaption to the listener and listener responsibility or responsiveness or adaption to the teller. It can’t be abstract idea. People are involved.

But why poetry as entertainment, as chairs in a row, as lights and designated time and space and area of the room?

If people can’t speak up, we need mics. If people don’t naturally stand up and create a commanding presence in the room that draws people’s attention, then we need the structure of a podium and lights to signal ‘pay attention to this person who appears to want to hide’. If people have the skill set to perform the idea and communicate with an intensity matching the poem, it can be poetry anywhere without a self-conscious filter blocking. One can slip in and out of poetry register without tools of page nor stage. Like musicians who need only tap a table to be recognized to each other, a natural gravitation, an intuitive forming of a circle where people throw around ideas cooperatively. A jam session of making something from the sand at hand. It’s not about if people show or don’t, or the light or mic works or doesn’t or if someone totally blows their piece or gives a riveting performance. (Although the latter is nice when it happens.)

A reading series is a facilitator for the real process which is people coming together who can hear and respect one another and want the same sort of play with the same sort of language or rhythm and sound toys. People who have a greater than average chance to be able to hear one another convene. It’s not about performance nor about the poetry dominantly but about the sensation of connecting over something engaging.

[Repeating and exploring further what I said in comments where it is more visible.]

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3 Responses

  1. Some good thought going on here Pearl.

    Performance poetry in a predominately musical setting has been a hard one for me. but I do it anyway.

    I find that in a predominately poetry setting the poets are so into their own readings, they talk while you are reading, kind of a rude setting I know, but what can one do when you are in a coffee house, people feel compelled to talk to their friends who have come to watch.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by voicesofvenus, Kathryn Hunt. Kathryn Hunt said: Talking to Pearl Pirie tonight on #LitLandscape #CKCU about poetry & performance. Inspired by her blog at http://bit.ly/giqipk […]

  2. […] You can listen live online. To what? I will be interviewed on Literary Landscapes by Kate Hunt, Feb 17th, 6:30 pm, CKCU, 93.1. We’ll talk on the subject of performance. […]