Reflections on performance poetry by various artists, with a foreword by Ian McMillan
While printed poems may have words dancing on the page, performance poetry works in an additional dimension. From hi-tech presentation to the ranter in a pub, the delivery - by vocal and other means - is vital in creating the emotional effect. Sometimes this involves a collaboration with other artforms, music in particular. At other times, it seems that a new hybrid is developing, or as Trevor Millum puts it: 'performance poetry is singing for those who can't sing.'
Stephen Wade and Paul Munden have assembled a range of interviews, reflective articles and essays by a wide range of poets involved in performance - both as public presentation of written work and as an art in its own right.
Ian McMillan's foreword to the book
It's great to have a book devoted to performance poetry, (although of
course we have to accept that a book about performance poetry is a bit
like a photograph of a bag of chips or a drawing of a piano concerto)
after years and years of performance poetry being treated like some
smelly homeless person who plays the clarinet on the subway. I once went
to a school and did a day of performance poetry and the teacher said
'You were very good: we've got an author coming in next week', as though
I'd found my stuff on the street.
Children and young people perform poems all the time, whether they know
it or not: rhymes, raps, dips, gags, songs, jokes, chants, lists,
knocknocks, flitting in and out of everyday life all the time, and it's
the job of the poet to capture the words and help them to fly, and to
help the children and young people to make them fly.
I wish we could find another word for this kind of poetry, though: it's
an oddity that the supplest, most adaptable kind of poetry (you couldn't
say that about the sestina) has got one of the clumsiest names.
Performance Poetry is a heck of a mouthful. I used to like the term
Standup Poetry, but I've gone off that lately; I quite like Spoken
Poetry, but it suggests best-suit-and-tie Choral Speaking. Oral Poetry
it certainly is, but that term's a bit academic for me. Perhaps the
purpose of this book will be to spark a debate about this kind of poetry
and maybe a new name will emerge.
I used to work as Literature Development Worker for Doncaster Community
Arts but I found that the word Literature was strangling the job.
Literature is formal. It says Shhh and sit up straight; so now I'm Words
Worker, and that feels friendlier, it feels like
come-in-sit-down-have-a-cup-of-tea. And that's what I know performance
poetry is: friendly, accessible, immediate, democratic, historic,
profound, and a damn good laugh.
So let this book be the start of something. Something huge...
Introduction: Stephen Wade
From Early Manifestos: Bob Cobbing
Concrete Visual Sound and Performance Poetry
The Oral Tradition:
Joolz - the Parable of the Tellers and the Scribes
John Coutts - 'Were the warriors listening?'
Aileen La Tourette - Irish Lament Poets
Adrian Mitchell (interview by Stephen Wade)
Roger McGough (essay and interview by Stephen Wade)
John Mole (interview by Stephen Wade)
SuAndi (interview by Michael McMillan)
Essay: Paul Beasley - Performance Poetry or Sub-verse
Voice and Cultural Identity:
Debjani Chatterjee - South Asian Poetry in performance
Leah Thorn - Poetic Dis/closure
Behind The Scenes:
Andrew Darlington - The Ranters, 18 years on...
Oliver Comins - No rehearsals: poetry and jazz with 'Tortoise'
Paula Claire - Ginkgo Fanfare for the Millenium
... in Education:
Trevor Millum - What's in it for the kids?
Peter Dixon & Geoff Ridden - 'Do I have to go?'
John Walsh - The Actor Poet