But don't worry, I won't abandon you just yet. There's still much to explore, and with tonight's reading on my mind, I'm thinking about performance in poetry.
I've never thought of myself as much of a performer when I read my poetry (feel free to browse some videos of me reading to agree or disagree). I mostly just read it as it's written. But I have a lot of admiration for those who are more courageous than I am, and can take to the stage without a page or a pause and lay down a poem with the confidence of a powerful performance.
I can think of many examples from recent Bay Area literary events. Take the most recent Quiet Lightning, which took a risk earlier this month by giving the delectable Sam Sax a full thirty minutes to close the show. Sam pulled it off with what I would call brilliance, but then I already know and love Sam and his work. What did this SF Weekly review of the event call it? "Berkeley shit." The writer didn't totally tear the event down, but he criticized the straying from Quiet Lightning's regular format by including the "banter" it usually avoids.
Evan Karp responds to the review on Litseen here, and includes videos of the readings so you can form your own opinion, and watch Sam do what he does best as a slam poet. He reminds us of the rich history of poets like Sam.
It's true that it's no easy feat to perform as a poet. When a poem is performed well, it usually doesn't take away from the writer's connection to the words at all. I'll continue to read my poems as they're written (tonight's event is at the library, after all; it's no bed-laden night club, so I suppose I shouldn't try to foray into performance tonight), but I definitely think I could have something to learn from performance poets.
But that's me. What do you think of performance poetry? Does it take away from what's written, or bring the words to life?