Let’s take the basic premise: poetry, in it’s broadest sense to include everything from a shopping list to Homer (Simpson or that other guy, your choice); whether written or improvised, ultimately verbalized (that is, spoken, intoned, said out loud); performed before an audience or in a studio, recorded in the process; combined with music (whether performed at the same time, in the studio or before an audience, or separately and combined later) or other sounds such as field recordings or an audio collage (which could be constructed separately without any relation to the words, expressly to illustrate or enhance the words, in tandem with the words as both develop)…have I covered it all? Probably not. Poetry with other sounds for the stimulation of your ears rather than your eyes.
That’s what it is. But what do we call it? I’ve been listening to this sort of thing for at least thirty-five years (longer if we consider The Doors’ “Celebration of the Lizard”) and producing it for over sixteen, but I’ve never known what to call it.
Recorded poetry? That’s great to describe what we can find of, say, Sylvia Plath or T.S. Eliot. An extension of the written word or perhaps an archive of an improvisation, but it leaves out the music or ambience.
Audio poetry or audio composition? Again, both are incomplete. Audio poetry composition? Clumsy and verbose.
I’ve considered tone poem but it’s already been attached to another art form and has too many associations, though it would be a good description.
How about sonic poem thing? Only after 2 AM.
Poetry soundscape? That might work. Has it been used before? Does it have other associations?
Sounded poetry? This is not only incomplete but is in use to describe an existing genre (see McCooey’s article).
Poetry soundtrack? Poet David McCooey has suggested this title in his essay Fear of Music: Sounded Poetry and the “Poetry Soundtrack” (I’ll be getting back to his essay many times, since it sums up a lot of want I want to get at with this blog). At one point I was thinking of calling my own work sound-tracks with a heavy pun and self-mockery in the word “sound”, considering that some of my stuff could come across as pretty cracked. Also, there’s a cinematic reference, both favorable and unfavorable, and much of what I’ve heard does come across as a soundtrack with voiceover.
Mark Goodwin has been calling it Digitally Produced Audio Poetry, or DPAP for short. Even if we leave off the digital portion (though at least 99% of what’s current is digital), to call it produced audio poetry, while getting to the point both thoroughly and succinctly, is still a bit longwinded.
I’ve heard that in English clubs there’s a current fashion called Poetronica. I like the brevity and catchiness of it. I don’t think it’ll work, though, because it will carry too much baggage from the club scene and implies that the musical element, one, be musical and, two, that it be electronic and, three, that it have a strong rhythmic content. This excludes field recordings and ambience. It excludes banjos and accordions and collaborations with your friendly neighborhood choir (if only there were such a thing, eh). It excludes non-musical clanks, buzzes and zooms. Already I’m feeling shut out.
Poetry compositions? Poetry constructions? Poetry productions? Produced poetry?
Anyone in the mood for a contest?