Lapkat disagrees with me…that there isn’t much recorded poetry with music out there. She should know, she’s been pursuing the subject for about 20 years and shows a commitment to it that I find humbling.
The disagreement is based on a difference of interpretation of “poetry”, or on the need to restrict the verbal content to poetry in the traditional sense, and on our differing perceptions of availability. As a fan of music, literature, art in all its forms, I’m in agreement with her: there is so much creativity out there, in so many shapes and forms, so much worthy of our time and attention, that you just have to keep your eyes and ears and mind open. And she’s right, it really is out there.
Sometimes I fixate on something and don’t want to move on. Sometimes I insist on being a pinhead. In this one little area, in this one part of my life, I am very small minded and old fashioned. Instead of clinging to an imaginary America-past or to some outdated moral code or carhops on roller skates, my conservative streak clings to wanting to hear a living equivalent of Milton or Baudelaire or Plath or Eliot or Rilke or Roetke set to a beat or a field recording or a piano sonata or cascades of electronic noise. I want to hear poets working with musicians. I want to hear poets stretching their possibilities as creators to make noises of their own, into broadening their exploration of sound. This goes back to my experiences with Jim Morrison and the Doors’ An American Prayer. I want something that’s obviously poetry, verbalized, heard, taken off the page and brought into time, into the movement of time, and combined with any and all possible sounds. (Why am I so open to sound but not to word?)
The other issue is availability. She’s absolutely right: it is out there. But where? How hard do you have to dig? Why can’t you just log on to Amazon.com or stop in at your neighborhood record store (is there still such a thing?) to search for this art? (We still don’t have a name for it.) The people making this art are too isolated, too far underground, ignored by the press and record labels, that we’re often under the illusion that we’re the only ones making this kind of art.
I’ve stated my arguments, now I want to leave the rest to Lisa (to the cyber world she’s Lapkat but in the world of the flesh she’s Lisa Greenaway of Melbourne, Australia). I’m going to add one of her wonderful sets from soundcloud.com, quote extensively from an email, and again direct you to her excellent blog. If you’re on a narrow pursuit like I am you might find her blog a little difficult and distracting. If you’re looking for leads on great music and spoken word it’s still distracting but in a completely rewarding way. When I’m that rare person of leisure I love browsing her postings.
While you’re listening to this wonderful set, these are some words from an email exchange we had in June, 2012:
It’s a great journey you’re going on, there is a huge global scene out there, of poets and storytellers working with music, I’ve been doing it myself alongside many many artists in Australia, for around 20 years.
Do you know Going Down Swinging? http://goingdownswinging.org.au (I edited it for 5 yrs – international literary and spoken word journal – publishes cds of spoken word with every issue). Rattapallax in the USA – have you heard the United States of Poetry CD (early 90s)? Route publishing in the UK … Cordite publishes audio works online regularly …
Spoken word is the general term covering all this work, coined in the early 90s to distinguish storytellers working with/without music from ‘performance poetry’ and the Beats (though naturally the beats worked with music – following on from Ken Nordine (you know his ‘Colours’ album?), spoken word took it in different directions away from jazz into other musical forms and away from only being ‘poetry’ to cover storytelling). From Laurie Anderson… through to these days folks like Ian Ferrier (Canada), Mark Gwynne Jones (UK), Derrick Brown (USA – Write Bloody Publishing) Shane Koyczan (Canada .. he performed live at the Commonwealth games opening ceremony) … so many amazing artists producing work with music.
Slam poetry scene in the USA has kicked the form into a whole new gear – it crosses over with hip hop of course
In Australia, Sean M Whelan (works with Isnod, also had a poetry music band for years), Ghostboy, many more (get yourself some Going Down Swingings! No.25 we did a double CD edition of works from around the world, No.30 a couple of years ago has 2 CDs as well – lots and lots of poetry/music fusions on there again from around the globe)
…it seems to ignore this enormous and longstanding form of art … I just don’t think it’s correct to say it’s not out there. It really is. It might still be ‘underground’ but not far underground these days.
Anyway as I say it’s a great journey and there is a wealth of material out there so I know you’re in for some amazing discoveries!
Myself I’m working with poetry in many different languages right now, in my DJ project so I’m also discovering many poets around the world doing this from many cultures and languages – the blog at lapkat.com chronicles my own journeys and discoveries.
I consider her blog essential to the adventure I’m on. I hope both you and I can make more time to read her postings and follow her links.