Monday, May 11, 2009

Is Poetry Audiovisual?

I completely missed National Poetry Month (April) but in cleaning out my aggregator I came across this lovely lady Bassey Ikpi (H/T WriteBlack):

Which reminded me of this, passed along to me by Littlest Sis a few weeks ago. Embedding is disabled but her name is Zora Howard, she is performing at the Urban Word NYC Teen Poetry Slam and you can also find here here in this short film by Lisa Russell.

To me these are two interesting and different examples of how poetry can speak. Bassey's poem is powerful spoken. But I would have also liked the time and private space to read it on the page, digest it with my eyes, ruminate and return to this line, or sit back and reflect on how that word fits into the entire stanza and the page. Whereas Zora's poem could possibly be read. But then you lose the power of this little dynamo, the energy of her breath, the movement of her body and the physicality of her "bi-racial hair." Just as reading Bassey on the page you could remove her--slight, black, roundly and delightfully pregnant and singular on the stage--from sight.

If read, the audience/reader stops being confronted with Bassey's body and the immediacy of the poem, the black baby boy soon to be born, recedes. Or at least, our assumption of immediacy--because, of course, that poem could be old, that boy could already be born, he could already be grown, that could actually be a daughter, or it could even be a baby suit which would make it a complete farce and the visual becomes just another prop, a part of the performance of the poem.

If spoken, we lose the opportunity to consider Zora's historical anecdotes. She deserves footnotes.

I love both versions--page and stage.

Still, what do we (the audience) gain and lose in each version? Are there poems that work well in both forms regardless? Are there forms that work better for women (of color) than for men? And how should we (the artist) navigate the intricacies of whichever form we choose?


T said...

Welcome back.

Kismet said...

Much obliged :)