Poetry lies over there – It’s not part of me. I look over at the thing and I’m curious about it. I know intellectually that it’s the highest form of writing and it’s not something that can be dashed off in a morning’s work.
But this slam poetry – it’s 50% performance – and that’s me. When I start to teach a class, I flick a little switch in my head. “It’s show time,” I say to myself. I think good teachers ARE performers, at least that fifty percent. I didn’t learn this from books. I learned it the first time I taught creative writing in prison. It was in a maximum security prison in Wisconsin. In front of me were 12 tough looking dudes. I knew I had to keep their interest so I flicked the switch in my head.
I read where spoken poetry WAS poetry for a long time. Poetry as words on a page is a comparatively recent development, and some of the world’s greatest literature originated in recitation handed down by word of mouth.
So there’s hope for me. This is a good feeling, that poetry is part of me. It’s not over there, it’s right here.
Slam, Damn, it’s me.