Letters to the Editor

From the week of September 4, 2003


A Wrinkle in Rhyme

Slam on wry: About three weeks ago I attended poetry night at the Mercury Cafe. In addition to hearing the flabbergasting triteness of the many solo poets, I had the displeasure of witnessing the so-called poetry slam team that Westword featured in "Poem on the Range," Laura Bond's August 21 cover story.

The half-baked bile spewed forth in my general direction was troubling at best. The topics -- banal and pithy offerings such as "suburbia," "society" and "the media" -- came across as staggeringly juvenile and pedantic. Am I to believe that these musty paleolithic concepts are to be regarded as still relevant in the least? Suburbia is a cultural wasteland? There are problems with society? The media is severely biased and unrepresentative? Oh, my God -- I had no idea!

Thank you, poets, for you have holistically enlightened my brainwashed mind! At least the kids had conviction; hopefully it will someday be put to better ends than vocalizing the emotional gamut of the average sixteen-year-old!

Will Minor
Denver

Root, root, root for the poem team: After reading Laura Bond's "Poem on the Range," I attended my first poetry slam -- featuring Denver's National Poetry Slam team -- on August 23 at Cafe Netherworld. The Denver team lived up to its admirable sixth-place finish at nationals and more, delivering a poignant performance at the cafe. As a former newspaper writer, a current technical writer and an aspiring novelist, I was inspired to write creatively more often. Hats off to the poets.

Thanks much to Laura Bond, whose writing communicated well the anxiety and exhilaration that poets feel while performing at a high-caliber poetry slam. Cheers, Laura, for an article that had me rooting, nearly short of breath, for our Denver poets.

Christopher Jacquin

Denver

And the beat goes on: Poetry slams are tragically stupid. The oft-strange nuance of poetic expression cannot be reduced to a beauty contest, especially within environments that have stylistic preferences, sometimes even xenophobic fervor for insiders over outsiders. The best writers and poets are ideally outside of all movements, especially those that regard themselves as utmost hip by some affiliation or associative succession. The best way to judge poetry is to let it simmer on the aftertaste of humanity for a hundred years after its author is gone. The open mike is not a place for snap judgments fit for a totem pole.

Slams are intended to showcase leaders in a world where heroic figures are desirable among those who seek to keep movements in thrust. The Beat founders, in particular, seem to be sorely missed and cause for nostalgic regurgitation. It is quite ironic that a poseur "beatnic" lifestyle was born in the 1950s to imitate Beat styles without any connection to core Beat philosophy -- namely, the philosophy of finding liberation in the perseverance of real identity amid being beaten down on a very personal level, repressed and excommunicated from social mainstays. Putting ambient music or bongos to poetic words is about as close as beatnic gets to Beat. Slammers likewise are totally out of touch with the muse -- but are certainly in love with their own egos.

Ranking poets for "performance" and declaring some of these poets superior can be discouraging to rank amateurs, whose poetic expression is often superior to competitive poets. I'll take the painfully shy twig of a girl poet any day over the rhetorical spout, the charlatan, the slammer or the audience who thinks rank is important or in any way close to accurate.

In a mere generation I expect you will find that slam is but a plastic niche soon to be exceeded by the anti-slam movement, currently microscopic in size but with at least one active poetry group in New York, and slam haters found all over the Net. Any poet who writes to impress his peers or to gain "credibility" is pretty much misguided and has no clue. Winning a slam can even discredit you in the eyes of some poets.

Forget the glory of winning! Screw the empty rhetorical milieu of the slam. Fix your heart and mind on some durable hard-beaten rubber soul, preferably your own. Then maybe you'll slowly become a poet. Even bad poets are often better writers and orators than great masters of verbosity. These cliquish scenes and popularity contests and those who promote them implore my most passionate indifference. I hear the muse, not some naive starstruck dupe in the local Earth-mother granola salon.

Vincent B. Rain

Denver


Sick Humor

Jewel of the Nile: Kenny Be's "Do You Have the West Nile Virus...Yet?" was absolutely brilliant. This man is a genius. And I'm not saying that because a West Nile virus-induced fever has affected my brain.

With his August 21 Worst-Case Scenario, Kenny's cured me of hypochondria for good.

Jules Thompson
Boulder County

One-word scenario: Regarding the cartoons of Kenny Be and Tom Tomorrow:

Wonderful!

Barbara Moe
Denver


They Speak Volumes

Staff infection: I've read Stuart Steers's articles on the Denver Public Library's problems with budget, volunteers and morale, most recently "Overdue Notice," in the August 28 issue. I share his concerns.

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