Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lyricysts' Lounge at SSU

What another good night of poetry and music. It was sweet to see some talented people spit and sing on the mic at SSU's Lyricists' Lounge on the 26th of April 2010. Nice to see SSU, AASU, and SCAD people together and sharing their voices as well as their ears. A truly inspirational session.
For anyone who needs a new poem I recently received a link to the Ice Cream People by Bukowski ( It is a really cool poem and very thought provoking for those of us nearing or surpassing the quarter century mark.
Not much else to say although it has been quite some time and this is my first post outside of a classroom setting. I have been busy with graduating and therefore have not had the time to pursue my spoetry as I would have liked to. But I am moving on in my collegiate career into the realm of Creative Writing Fiction @ Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The next few weeks will tough and enjoyable, stressful and relaxing.
Here's to hoping all is well with you and yours, and to hoping it'll all work out in the end even if, as Geoffrey Rush's character in Shakespeare in Love notes, "I don't know how. It's a mystery."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Power(lessness) of the Post

Posting blogs and videos online has become a common occurrence for many an artist and/or self-promoting individual.

Good or bad?

Not for me to decide; it is a sign of our society much like speakeasies and flappers were signs of the twenties, or zebra pants and poofed up hairdos were signs of the eighties.

What does spoetry have to do with online posts?


Some of the most talented individuals are not mainstream moneymakers or celebrities, therefore, the internet has become their only outlet (well, outside of dainty coffee shops and/or not-too-crowded college cafeterias).

The brilliance of freelance writer and spoken word artist Mary Fons (a.k.a Paper Girl) won’t be discovered scaling the ranks on any top ten charts but can be found on Youtube. Check out two of her best performances and decide on her brilliance for yourself –
“I love you” at:
“I’m so young” at:

Posts are great ways to get ones message or work out in a world otherwise inundated with information, images, and celebrity gossip. The only problem is that watching a video online wanes in experiencing a spoet live. The video may have been made at a live show, therefore giving the spoet something to feed off of, but the people watching it (inspired by the video or not) are missing out on the intimacy afforded by firsthand experience.

Another point where posts lose power, especially posts of written work with little to no identification or dating system:

Taylor Mali’s poem, “What Teachers Make”, is a prime example of the uncharted depths of internet security, which pertains not just to identity theft anymore but word and idea theft. Yes, ideas can not be copyrighted, only actual works can.

For a writer, however, ideas are the wombs that bear bodies of work, which may take years to properly form into developed creatures. If someone happens to split the surface of such a womb they may taint that which has grown within.

Mali’s tale of woe, can be read on his website and details just what can happen when a well-intentioned writer tries to share his voice with the world via the web:

“I am well aware that ‘What Teachers Make’, a poem I wrote in 1999, has been elevated/reduced to the level of Inspirational Cyber Spam. It started happening shortly after I posted an unattributed (sic) draft of the poem on this very website. Since the poem appeared on my website, I figured my name was unnecessary. But I was wrong. I suspect the text of the poem got copied, pasted, and sent by well meaning teachers and fans. Soon enough, the poem became anonymous, and people began to edit, alter, and "sanitize" it. There are, to my knowledge, at least five different versions of the poem out there circulating. All of them are anonymous.”

I’m not trying to profess doom and gloom for those of you who may post writings or your own personal catch phrases online. I’m merely preaching the prophecy of don’t-be-surprised if someone confiscates your work and either claims ownership or, perhaps worse, detaches any ownership by citing said work Anon.

Also be aware of the fact that you have no clue who sees your work and how they might react, if only in the comments section.

There are upsides to posting online. Videos, of course, offer more security to the spoet because he/she has not only written it but he/she can be seen performing it (most often with a time stamped post).

Thanks to internet and video technology, spoets like Fons have been discovered some tens of thousands of times, and others like Mali or Rives have been viewed over hundreds of thousands of times.

Facebook and Myspace should not be the places where beautifully crafted drafts appear for the first time. Blogs are good sources and so are viral sites because these allow for clear, dated posts that will not call your ingenuity and talent into question. (When posted, however, works are considered published and therefore no longer “new”; so be wary if you intend to send it off to a poetry contest or journal for publication).

Who is this post to, really? Don’t most self-respecting internet spiders know this as they titter across the web?

Well, this post is more for the tortured souls who have ever had a notebook stolen, or a file deleted or a laptop pilfered; for anyone – not just poets, spoets, or writers – whose talent has been usurped by greedy talentless people who feed off the power and artistic abilities of others. These parasites may obtain glory and recognition but Taylor Mali’s words reflect a refreshing way to look at usurpation of one’s integrity:

“Am I disappointed not to have received credit for writing this poem that has inspired so many? Used to be. But the truth will always come out in the end. And if I had to choose between inspiring teachers anonymously or not inspiring them at all, I would choose anonymous inspiration every time.”

End note: This post goes out, in part, to my Aunt Marie who had the unfortunate luck of having a poem (“A Rose Beyond the Wall”) published in a national high school journal only to see it appear on a drugstore sympathy card attributed to one A.L. Frink.

As always, enjoy yourself before somebody else does.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jazzed Up

Corny title I know, but that is exactly how I felt yesterday after having performed at AASU's Jazz Open Mic.

I had only heard about the event a few hours before it happened and the events of a rather stressful day kept me from feeling any need to perform. (Little did I know that is exactly what I would need).

After shying away from signing up to spit some spoetry, I sat back and listened to the sweet, sweet rhythm of the jazz band as they tickled and whistled their way through some really slick jazz. A bassist, a pianist, a drummer and a master fluteman made up the ensemble. I then watched a few spoets go up and jive with the band's impromptu accompaniments based on how the spoets describe the tone and nature of their works.

I have to admit that while I did not "want" to perform, I could not help but to bring a few sheets of verse with me. (I told myself they were simply to show a friend of mine some new stuff I had in the woks, which was true, but I had also brought along an older, polished poem.)

After two or three spoets and some good vibrations from the band, and some encouraging words from the band's lead singer (I wish I had written down their names and gotten their info!) I could not help but feel that the time had come to perform my poem "The Hangman, Gravedigger, Fireman, Gunslinger Blues".

Since the inception of this poem some two years ago I always pictured parts of it being sung and others being spoken. I decided to chance any humiliation due to my poor musically vocal skills and go ahead with it, after all I had a premium jazz group to cover my faults - "What better time than now!" I thought.

So I took to the stage and beg my apologies preemptively.

What followed was the best version of the poem I have done to date. I was within my note range and only a few times did I falter musically. The band quickly caught my rhythm and I feed off their freestyle. The poem flowed like a brook babbling over a pebble and the soulfulness of it was amplified a hundred fold beyond my shower performances.

The dankness of the day washed away while I was up on stage, under the lights, swaying and belting the story of 4 wayward men (the Hangman, Gravedigger, Fireman, Gunslinger) and their ultimate dooms.

After the song, I thanked the band and breathed in the applause. For a good ten minutes afterwards my body shook with excess energy that I wish I could have bottled - pure, unadulterated energy; no sugar drink, no b-vitamin shot, no blast of alcohol. I was higher than I have been in ages. The things that seemed to weigh me revealed how truly miniscule they are in the grand symphony of life - a few notes that are nothing without the whole.

I was jazzed and thinking back on it grants me a taste of that feeling and makes me want to spit (words that is).

Peace. Enjoy yourselves before somebody else does.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Work of Wordsmiths

I am that poet who can’t show fit emotions in life
but bleeds out on the stage under a spotlight.
A poet who tries his best to be bold
and – while no Rumpelstiltskin –
every now and again, attempts to spool language into gold.

The stanza above is from one of the poems I wrote for spoken word slams and open mics called Notes on Alchemy: Failure to Convert Oxygen. This poem explains why I write poetry.

The art of spoken word is fairly fresh to me. In the first few weeks after a break-up I could not focus at my job at and engineering firm – I found it difficult to do much of anything – until I began to write poetry again, something I had put off for some time (probably because of the relationship). I had heard of “slam” poetry and figured since I couldn’t focus at the office that I would take a five minute Google break and hyper-educate myself on the subject of slam poetry.

What happened next cast a hex upon my soul and changed my view of poetry forever. Deep down, I always knew I wasn’t a dork, or effeminate, because I liked to read and write poetry. I knew poetry was cool, somewhere. Sure enough, it had been cool for quite some time and now I have video proof.

My search led me to Youtube videos of extravagant wordsmiths who lamented everything from racial bias, to social injustice, and broken hearts. They also celebrated life, the ability to speak and be heard, love, and family – to name some of the subject matter.

Check out Taylor Mali (, who was the first person I came across and also Rives ( to see what I mean about poetry being cool.

I discovered Def Poetry Jam and that poetry can mix comedy, tragedy, peace, and war in the same breathe. Some of the poems had me laughing so hard or feeling so down that I was catching the unwanted attention of my coworkers.

In the midst of my discovery I also found out that there was a difference between performance poetry and “slam” poetry; in fact, “slam” poetry is not really correct terminology (there used to be a video of Taylor Mali explaining this but it has since been removed from Youtube). But the difference is that performance poetry is any poem that is intended to be performed aloud with inflections, in character, to a beat, etc. Performance poetry makes up the poems of a poetry slam. A slam is a contest that usually begins with 15-18 poets. They get up and “spit” their poems in a time limit (this usually forces them to trim or speed up otherwise long and involved poems). The time limit usually consists of three minutes. Five judges are chosen at random from the crowd (versed in slam poetry or not, it doesn’t matter) and each judge rates each poem from 1-10 (they can score using one decimal point as well, i.e 3.6). The highest and lowest scores are dropped and the rest are totaled. Based upon the totals, those poets in the top twelve move on to the next round to perform another three-minute poem. Then the field is cut to six in the same scoring manner as above. There is a third round, which usually cuts the time limit down to a minute and a half or two minutes. The field is cut to three based on who scores the best and then there is a final one-minute round and the winner takes the prize (usually poets pay an entry fee with part going to the promoters and the rest to the winner).

This kind of contest was created by Marc Smith to enrich the spoken word poetry scene in 1985. Smith was a construction worker from Chicago who performed regularly at the Get Me High Lounge. For more of his story and the history of poetry slams check out this link:

As usual there will be more to spit at ya!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Unraveling the yarns of Spoetry

With the latest performance by a spoken word artist this past Wednesday at AASU, one Mr. Carlos Robson, I was struck with the idea to center my blog around the art of performance poetry.

How can one sustain such a blog, people may wonder?

Easy. I plan to dispel many rumors and myths about those who write poetry, especially those about men. Like many other avenues of expression poetry has evolved over the years.

I plan on enlightening those who may be otherwise unawares about the differences between spoken word poetry and poetry written specifically for poetry slams. Technically there is no such thing as “slam poetry”, rather there are poetry “slams” for which certain poems are written to meet parameters of time, subject, and competition.

I intend to further discuss these details as well as highlight different spoken word artists who influenced my own poetry and that of others.

Hopefully, those of you following this blog will discover the complexity and the talent of performance poets from the likes of Rives, Taylor Mali, E-baby, Carlos Robson, Annie DeFranco, and many, many others. (I will provide links to some of their stuff next time around, for this is merely a mission statement at this point).

Performance, or spoken word, poetry will be referred to on this blog hereto hither as SPOETRY, a term I have coined for the blog, though somebody else may have already laid claim to it.

Spoetry can be comedy, drama, storytelling, poetry, rhyme, rhythm, song, music or any combination of these things. It is expression in spoken form that goes beyond merely talking or freestyling (though freestyling can be an aspect of it).

There will be more to spit shortly (spit is a term spoets use when talking about performing)…

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breaking the Seal

So this is my first ever blog. Sweet! Right? This could be the start of something magical or just the toliet bowl my meandering miasma of a brain sprays its funk for all to bask in.

Eww, that above stuff was gross. What was I thinking? What do you care? Why should you care?
The answers to these and more questions will hopefully reveal themselves to me and any readers I might amass as the semester progresses. For now only pontifications of self-important thought will these blog posts. Like for instance, my description boasts that I may enlighten my readers about things that are mundane or extraordinary.

Let me take moment to spout out my long bubbling grudge with the word extraordinary. My beef with this adjective is that if something is ordinary but even more so than usual wouldn't one refer to it as extra ordinary? So what's the deal (wow, there's a Seinfeld moment for you) with the combination of these two words totally changing the meaning from more ordinary than usual to "exceptional to a very marked extent" (according to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary)?

Man, I'm rambling. Blogs are dangerous fodder for ramblers.