Monday, September 03, 2007


There are no poetry readings where I live, so I've never had an opportunity to form an opinion about DEF Jam Poetry. In fact, I'm not sure I know what it is, if you want the truth. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I've seen a few videos of people giving spoken word performances, which I guess is kind of the same thing. My suspicion is that a bad poem is a bad poem and reading it outloud while dressed in a sari is not going to save it. However, mediocre poetry may be a different story; it isn't all that hard to hide a weak line in the layers of silk wrapped vertically across one's body, especially if the poem is about Iraq, how evil Americans are (a topic in which most people under the age of about 35 agree), refer to guns and killing children at least once, and most especially if you end the line in "Word."

But also thanks to the wonder of the internet and the "Outside" section of the PFFA (some other blog post I'll say why I bother) I had an opportunity to discover at least one Def Jam poet that I like. Though I confess I'm not sure if it's because he's a good poet or if it's because he's tells a good story or both.

The guy's name is Rives. This is his website: Shoplift Windchimes If you search You tube, you'll find him there too. My absolute personal You TUBE favorite is "DEF JAM", his take on deaf kids' poetry. I won't post it here because the profanity is rampant (he's quoting deaf teenagers after all) and my son reads here sometimes and I just don't think I want to explain "Do what I say, not what I do" again.

Here is a video I found on his site.


"Encounters", a video collection his work from various annual TED gatherings is pretty good. My favorite is the one about his sister and their secret language.

You can't


Scotty said...

Oh yes, Rives is great to watch, and I loved his video on the deaf kids. I don't know much about slam poetry or performance poetry or even poetry jam(s), but this guy just seems to make poetry accessible, don't you think?

Unknown said...

Would you be breaking any laws if you quoted some of his poetry? Or would he send some guys over to rough you up? I ask because
I'm interested but I have dial-up at home and I can't access streaming media at work (yet I can post it - go figure).

I really admire poets and their ability to inspire emotion with very few words. I start a class in a couple days that's half poetry, half creative fiction. Hopefully I learn to become more economical and expressive.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Hi Scotty,

I hauled my teenage son into my office and said, "Check this out."
"I'm really not into poetry readings," he said.
"Just watch this this for a sec. It won't kill you."

I played Rives piece on Mocking Birds. (Good lines in that one).

Inspite of himself, he began to grin. "Who is this guy again?"

Once in a while, I know stuff.

If you click on the link to his site, he's got some of his work posted there. I feel your pain. I did the dial up thing for a lot of years.

Laura said...

Oooh, I recommend Taylor Mali, Saul Williams and Sage Francis xxx

Bandersnatchi said...

I am unfamiliar with Def Jam etc. by any form of direct exposure, what I have heard about it still doesn't inspire me to make an effort to listen to it.
I think the delivery style is what puts me off.
Call me a snob but when I have heard Olivier deliver Shakespeare's poetry I can only think that whatever "message" slam poets have could be delivered on a bumper sticker - much less painful for me. heh.
but let the art flourish if it can.


Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks for the names. I think of the three Taylor Mali impessed me the most in terms of subject matter. "What Teachers' Make" resonated.

Basically, I'm with you, but . . .

I think it's interesting that poetry which started out as spoken word, is reappearing as such and is preferred by our so- very-much-more-than-we-are auditory younger generation. It's almost like a universal reversion to tribal behavior. When you add in the upsurge in body piercings and tattoos among them, maybe there's something to that.

I prefer reading poetry to listening to it and am all about language and subtext and rhythms.
But I am in awe of people who make it as much about body language and storytelling skills. I like the fact that when Rives speaks his poem "Kite", you forget that you're listening to poetry and get caught up in his story. And I think his strongest piece--on the page--has got to be "Emperor of Oranges".
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