Browsed by
Tag: Maui Live Poets

SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

In a world of seven billion-plus souls, one of our deepest human needs often goes unfulfilled – the need to be heard.  That may be one reason why the Spoken Word movement, once a subculture on the fringes of the mainstream, is gaining widespread acceptance around the world.

THE RISE OF SPOKEN WORD

“Spoken word poetry” was born in Chicago in 1984, when a construction worker, Marc Smith, started reading poetry at a popular club and encouraged others to join him in sharing their work.  Smith was looking to “democratize” poetry and “bring it to the masses.”

He was following an old road with an ancient lineage that meanders through the underground and fringes of Society among the dispossessed and disenfranchised and the ones who choose to stand different.

The trailhead for this road began before there was writing and paper.  The college theses expounding about the “long-held traditions” of the ancient art of wordsmithing (and all the other hoo-hah that made playing with words seem like it is a probable cause for dyspepsia) were not even a glimmer on any horizon.

Smith was going back to that most ancient of traditions, Word-of-Mouth — just like the tribal storytellers and assorted con artists and bull-shitters sitting around campfires and hearth-fires of the world from ancient times, weaving a yarn for their friends and companions.  And he was inviting everybody else to join him.

campfire
“Campfire” by Markus Pachali via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Smith remembered:  Poetry was, first and foremost, an oral art.  It was an art with a performer and an audience.  The people around him liked that reminder.

Two years after he first got up to tell his poems out loud, Smith approached the owner of a jazz club.  Those readings happened every week and evolved into a competition.

The format gained popularity, but it was the Internet that blew it up big.  A lot of people liked being reminded that poetry is an oral art.

Poetry was originally produced by a human voice, propelled out of a human body with the breath.  It was one person talking to a bunch of other people.

Audiences liked the presentations by the most avid performers that showed that poetry, at its most effective, contains the rhythm and movements of a human heart.

They liked that the beginning and end of a poetic line is often a unit of phrasing and sense-making that is based on the human breath. You need to breathe when you’re speaking your poem.  It is your breath and your voice that animates it.

PAGE POETRY VS STAGE POETRY

Poetry Its-Own-Self has always been a means of often-powerful self-expression.  It grew out of song and prayer and storytelling traditions that continue to this day.  It has been with us forever and because of that it can be difficult to pin down and define.

One cute breakdown, “What Is Poetry? #Poetry Defined” was published in 2015 by Advocate of Wordz.  Here’s the YouTube video:

In my own experience, poetry has been a life-saver.  It continues to be a way for me to find my own clarity in the confusion of everyday life.  Rearranging words on a page helps me to rearrange the thoughts in my head.  It works very well for that.

But, let’s face it.  Over the centuries, page poetry has become stigmatized by many folks as indulgences of the rich-and-snooty.  Books of poetry tended to gather dust on bookshelves.

Page poetry (especially as was taught in schools when I was growing up) could be a yawn-inducing experience.  Poetry – at least the kind pedagogues seemed to favor — had the most gawd-awful and esoteric rules formulated by various poetry-makers in times past, all gathered together by the intelligentsia and assorted acolytes of High Culture.

If your teacher was into it, as mine often were, it was a grand thing; otherwise, not so much.  Teachers who got stuck on guiding their charges through parsing and analyzing some “Great Poem” or other, killed more poets a-borning than any other thing, probably.

Like calculus and philosophical debate, it was stuff for the Big-Brains (or folks who wanted to look like they had some.)

Page poetry was a good thing to inflict on children.  Like regular doses of cod-liver oil or whatever, it was supposed to keep them growing and make them strong.  By the time the children hit adulthood, it was often not a thing remembered fondly.

the-poet
“The Poet” by Russell Chopping via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
“Dull” was page poetry’s other name.

Committing poetry to a page (if you were not an academic sort), was a weird sort of hobby at best.  Solitary you could string the words from your heart across assorted pages and realize all kinds of gains.  Rigorous mental exercise, mastery of an art form, personal catharsis, and insights are possibilities that come to mind.

A common fate for these homemade page poems was to be stuck in a drawer where they moldered until the poet’s death, after which, they were probably tossed by the poet’s heirs.

If you were particularly proud of the page poems you constructed, you submitted them to magazines in exchange for magazine issues, sold them to greeting card makers for pennies, or spent money on producing self-published chapbooks to give to all of your family and friends.

If you got good at producing poems, you might even consider spending time creating them “on demand” as a busker.

poet
“The Poet” by Garry Knight via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
When the Internet revved up, you could also post them on websites or on social networks and then wonder whether they ever reached anybody.  (The page poem launch very often hits a wall of dead silence.)

The problem with even the best page poetry is that it is only one-half of a dialogue.  The maker makes, but doesn’t know whether anybody is out there listening, doesn’t feel like he or she is being heard.  It gets to feel like you’re talking to yourself.

Stage poetry (as spoken word has been called) is something else.  When it’s done well and the audience is lively, it flies.  Performers and audiences can get caught up in a group hug-fest.

  • Some poets are raucous; they rant and rave, yell and shout. Others are calm and relaxed.
  • There are poets who make you laugh and poets who make you cry. Many of them bare their deepest secrets and rock your heart.
  • Some weave intricate verbal patterns that enthrall you in a web of sound.
  • Others parse out a problem using simple words that drill down into the core of it, reframing and rearranging your mind.

Stage poetry can be inspiring.  A spoken word poem can be stimulating and entertaining when it’s good.

poet
“Poet” by Taz etc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When several good poets get together it can turn into a jazz jam, a live performance never to be repeated in exactly the same way.  It can be a feast.

More importantly, even when the poetry or the performance is not so good, stage poetry is about connection.  The poet speaks.  The audience listens.  Good performers take their listeners flying; bad performers get a lot of points for trying.

the-elders
“The Elders” by Laura Thorne via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TASTE OF SPOKEN WORD

To give you a taste, here’s one of my favorite slam poems, “Legacy,” presented in this YouTube Video published by Button Poetry.  It features poet Tui Scanlon performing for Hawaii during the prelims at the 2014 National Poetry Slam.

Button Poetry was founded in 2011 by poets Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder.  Since then it’s become the largest digital distributor of spoken word in the world.  The Button Poetry videos are shared on websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and NPR.  Their YouTube channel has over 900,000 subscribers.  Click here to check them out:

click-here

SPOKEN WORD INTERNATIONAL

These days, commentators note that spoken word has “gone mainstream.”  Poetry meant to be performed – performance poetry – is winning accolades from audiences of regular people.  Some of those people get up on stage and do their own spoken word pieces before sometimes massive crowds.

All over the world, wherever people gather, there are open mic nights, where folks get up in front of a crowd and share their words – angry poetry, love poems, poems of protest and politics, stand-up poetry, punk poetry, jazz poetry, nonsense rhymes, and rap and hip-hop fusion poetry.

There are regular organized gatherings of amateur and casual poets.

There are poetry slams where the competition and audience participation can get intense.

german-language-poetry-slam-championships-2010
“German-language Poetry Slam Championships 2010” by Very Quiet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
There are shows by professional poets.  At festivals, you’ll find performing poets sharing the stage with musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists.

national-cowboy-gathering
“National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – 2017” by Travel Nevada via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] (Photo by Sydney Martinez)
On the Internet, the variety (and the sheer number) of posted poetry videos boggles the mind.

There are even spoken word workshops you can attend to become a better performing poet.

slam-workshop
“Slam Workshop” by Tom Astleitner via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
And, in the schools, performance poetry and spoken word has opened a door to the impact and the power of words for children of all ages.

louder-than-a-bomb-kc-team
“Louder Than a Bomb KC Team” by Laura Gilchrist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Smith’s plan to bring poetry back to the masses worked.   Words were spoken…and more and more and more words keep being spoken, mostly because people are definitely listening.

The quality of the works vary, of course, and that seems to be a part of the whole scene.

THE BEST POEM

My benchmark “best poem” has no words.  It was an exchange between my friend Wide Garcia, who chairs the meeting of the Maui Live Poets that meets in the Makawao Library on the third Wednesday night of each month, and a young man with Aspergers Syndrome.

During one of our regular meetings, we were doing a round-robin, where all of the poets in attendance took a turn to present a poem to the crowd.  A young man came in midway through the first session and sat down in an empty chair.  He sat quietly and watched as the poets read or spoke their work, watched as the audience responded.

It’s Wide’s practice to ask everyone who comes to the gatherings if they would like to present a poem.  After the first round was done and the poets were mingling and talking story, he approached the young man, who was sitting there, seemingly detached from the hubbub around him, and asked whether the boy had work he would like to share.

The young man did not answer, so Wide asked again, looking deeply into the teenager’s eyes.

There was a pause.  Then the boy lifted his right hand with all of his fingertips held together like a spear-point and touched the middle of his chest, fingers pointed right at his heart.  He gestured, moving his arm outward towards Wide and opened his hand, palm-up, as if he were offering his heart.

Wide made the same gesture back to the boy and grinned at him.  The boy just looked back at him out of his own world.

And, for me, that became my benchmark “good poem” – the one I remember every time I start constructing another one.  A good poem offers up your heart to another person.  It’s even better when that other person offers up his or her heart back.

Here’s a poem….


ALWAYS THERE ARE POEMS

 Always there are poems.

Not all of them use words.

Sometimes your body builds them.

Sometimes hearts must be heard.

 

The hand that reaches out,

The smile that glows and shines,

The eyes that sparkle in delight,

The hug that says, “We’re fine.”

 

Always there are poems.

All you need to do is see

The wonders of the universe

And the worlds in you and me.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Ballsaal um 20:50” (Poetry Slam) by Sebastian Courvoisier via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Get Social....
BORN A WOMAN

BORN A WOMAN

Cinthia I. Albers is a fellow member of the Maui Live Poets Society.   She’s a lifelong poet with a quirky sense of humor and her own tales to tell.  She has laid claim to a “poet husband and a poet cat” and has collected her poems in a series of books that are available on Amazon.

I asked her to share a poem that has meaning and mana for her and to tell us why.  This is hers:

“I have always been at war with the ideas of what the world says woman should be. Magazines show us these images and most of us do not measure up.”

we-are-victims-of-this-folly
“We are victims of this folly” by Michelle Robinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
“I was at a doctor’s office and picked up a woman’s magazine and thought about all those magazines I had read and discarded over the years.  The idea that what interests women is reflected on their pages seems like a cosmic joke. Women are much more than that.”

les-trois-graces
“Les Trois Graces” (mosaic sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, part of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project) by David via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
“This poem grew from that. This was published in Maui Muses Vol 4- Equitude (a collection of poems curated by the Live Poets) and in my own collection.”


MAGAZINE

I was flipping through one of those magazines
You know the ones
With the makeup ads
And perfume ads
And Handbag ads
And High heeled shoe ads
Twenty-five haircuts
Just for you
The ones with the articles


How to lose weight
Lose belly fat
Sculpt your thighs
Sculpt your arms
Tighten those abs
Make that butt tight and firm
Those articles about
How to please your man
How to have more sex
How to have satisfying sex
How to declutter your home
How to organize your life
That kind of magazine
That follows the weight loss article
And the sculpt your body
into a fat burning machine
With the recipe for a 10000 calorie dessert
And the five minute meal
That takes three hours prep
And 100 dollars of ingredients
But you’ll be fine
Using their budget tips

I picked up that magazine,
I flipped through
I admired those thin women
With the leather coats
And the hair that flows in the wind
The one where you can smell her perfume
The one that runs in heels and never falls
Looking at them, the perfect make up
The happy homemaker
The husband pleaser
With the decluttered kitchen
And the picture perfect comfy house
I wonder
Being born a woman
How did I fail so badly?
They showed me how
It’s so simple
They told me so
I just have to read
Follow simple instructions
Bat my phony eyelashes
Buy the right kitchen organizer
Use the correct perfume
Take care of my man sexually
And all will be perfect
I will grow the perfect boobs
Sculpt the perfect ass
I will the don the perfect haircut
And I will be able to run
In expensive spiked heels
With matching bag
And fly away coat

Truth is it never worked
I just can’t quite master that image
Who would have thought being a woman
Was so hard to become
Considering I was born one.


Header Image credit:  “Woman in Window” by Beshef via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

[Guest poets add other voices to this thing and they do make the song we are singing more lively.  Click the button.  Come play.]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if  you would drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
THE PEACE POEM

THE PEACE POEM

It’s happening again.  This is the 18th year that the annual statewide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest will be organized by volunteer teachers, writers and artists who call themselves “The International Peace Poem Project.”  Small donations keep them alive.

Almost every school in Hawaii is invited to participate in the contest and there is no entry fee.  Every student winner in the contest from each class gets a certificate of honor and a prize for their winning poem during spring ceremonies on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island (Hawaii) and Molokai.

Last year more than 2,000 students in Hawaii entered the contest and hundreds of them were recognized at ceremonies held in auditoriums statewide.  In past years other schools throughout the United States have taken on the Peace Poem as a class project.

PLANTING THE SEED

banyan-seeds
Banyon Seeds by yopper via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The seed for this Maui-based Project was planted in 1996 when three friends Melinda Gohn, Frank Rich (aka Wide Garcia) and the late Lawrence Hill, who had started the Maui Live Poets Society, began compiling what they called “The Peace Poem.”

The idea was to get people from all over the world to contribute lines to the poem until it became the world’s longest poem about peace.   A six year-old girl, Libby Barker, contributed the first two lines:

“Peace means everyone loving everyone else

And we are all part of one world.”

The group has been collecting lines for the poem ever since.

The poem is hand-written by many, many hands on a scroll constructed of rag paper sheets and other papers.  (In those early years, the group considered and rejected the option of collecting the lines over the Internet.  It felt more real to have the lines laid down by all those hands.)

banyan-tree-in-lahaina
Banyan Tree in Lahaina by Bret Robertson via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
At every Live Poets gathering the people in attendance are still being asked to contribute their lines.  People who visit the islands and people who live here have been tapped to write a couple of lines.

The group has taken the poem into churches to collect lines from the congregations.  They’ve gone into prisons to get lines from the inmates in lockdown.  Contributors represent all ages, social strata and religious beliefs.

The youngest donor was a 3-year-old girl whose 7-year-old sister wrote her words, “Peace is seeing a baby’s smile.”  The oldest known contributor was a 93-year-old Maui poet.

Poetry was collected from China, Vietnam and Greece, and poetry scrolls circulated through England and Switzerland.  The poem’s mission was translated into Spanish and was sent to international Spanish-speaking organizations.  About this last, Gohn said, “There is so much unrest in South America. It’s a perfect place for the poem.”

“It’s very powerful,” Gohn says. “As soon as I bring up the Peace Poem, immediately we’re dealing on a high level. All the other stuff falls away.”

As she points out, “Everyone has a common desire for peace.”

In more recent years, the poem has gone (sort of) digital.  Anyone who wants to can contribute their two lines about peace to the poem by downloading the group’s Peace Poem Scroll Page, copying the thing onto an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper and get friends, fans and other fellows to write their lines as well.  The sheet can then be mailed to Peace Poem, P.O. Box 102, Lahaina, HI, USA 96761.

If you’d like to do this, CLICK HERE.

GOAL ACHIEVED

By September 19, 2000, the poem had more than 15,000 lines that had been penned by people from over 120 countries.  On that day the poem was symbolically presented to the United Nations during its Millenium Peace Day celebration.  (Today, the poem has grown to over 160,000 lines.)

That was an exciting day for Melinda and Wide, who traveled to New York for the Millenium Peace Day, and made the presentation along with another member of the Project Allen Lewis.

united-nations-peace-day
United Nations Peace Day via peacepoem.org

Melinda recited poetry before a panel including the UN President Harry Holkieri and dignitaries from the UN General Assembly.   She told the assembled world leaders, “The project has been a voice for people of the world to express their hope for peace. Let us hope world leaders will listen and work toward nonviolent solutions.”

Fifteen-year-old Maeh-ki (Red-Sky) El-Issa (the tall guy sharing her microphone) read a peace poem written by Mother Teresa in honor of his late mother, Ingrid Washinawatok, who was killed on March 4, 1999, when she was on a cultural education mission to Colombia.  Allen and Wide hold up a part of the Peace Poem Scroll.

The presentation of the poem to the UN was the accomplishment of a goal set when the friends began the poem four years before.

START OF THE PROJECT

However, that event was not the end of the poem.  Instead, a new chapter in the story began when Melinda and her friends organized the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest and opened it to elementary school students from all over the state.  The organization even put together poetry lesson plans and suggestions for the teachers at its website, www.peacepoem.org.

Students from schools on all of the islands are invited to enter the contest.  The young poets vie for prizes and the winners are honored by island mayors or state officials at a school assembly and presented with Certificates of Honor and assorted prizes furnished by the Peace Poem organization.

Each of the student poems are a maximum of  twenty lines and “can be about any kind of peace.”  All of these poems are added to the Peace Poem scroll which continues to grow.

Lahaina Banyan Tree by Brian Ujiie via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Melinda says, “The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest was started in 2000 as a way to share with Hawaii students an understanding of the need for peaceful reflection and active work toward peace, as exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

“In honor of these peace and nonviolence principles which have played a vibrant role in Hawaiian culture—and in particular the Hawaiian Renaissance—we encourage Hawaii students to contribute their poems to the contest and the International Peace Poem. ”

Every year now  thousands of students have participated in this statewide event.  Other schools throughout the United States take on the peace poem as a class project.

Here’s a poem:


HEARTSONG MAITRI

May all of our heartsongs

Foster joy in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster peace in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster freedom from suffering in the World.

 

And may the heartsong of the Universe

Join all of our songs

And spread through all the realms.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Maui Banyan Tree Square by Bevis Chin [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)