Trapeze Artist

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I have been posting my poems in chronological order, successfully… until now.

It seems I missed one. It was almost pretty bad as a poem I like was nearly lost FOR ALL TIME!!!

You see, when I decide one of my poems is appropriate for slamming, I tear the page out of my initial notebook, fold it up and stick it in my pocket. That way I am ALWAYS trying to memorize it. Once it is done and performed I will copy it into my ‘good’ book and then post it up here.

Sometimes that original page gets pretty raggedy, but I never want to ‘change’ it until the piece is memorized.

I just found that raggedy copy of ‘Trapeze Artist’, faded and ripped, memorized (fleetingly) and performed, but never recopied and posted. I just plain missed it.

Good thing I found it before it degenerated any further!

CONTEXT – December, 2010

Back when I first starting writing poetry in 2006, I found a quote from Bob Dylan about being called a poet. I tore it out of the magazine (GQ, I think) and stashed it away. I found it again and decided to write this poem.

To be clear, I do not like the ‘page vs stage’ thing, but I also think denying it is there is just putting blinders on. During my time involved with poetry I have NEVER heard someone in the spoken word community bashing ‘page’ poets. The worst I have ever heard is someone saying that the didn’t really read poetry (and THAT was from a fan, not a poet).
Some of the things I have heard ‘page’ poets say about ‘stage’ poets, on the other hand, were very insulting and offensive.

Does that mean I think all ‘page’ poets think that way? Of course not, but I have performed at a show where the ‘serious poets’ looked at me like I was some sort of cockroach scampering across their formal dining table.

I wrote this poem not as an attack on ‘page’ poets (At all!) but as a response to those who try to stigmatize the art that I, and people I respect, create and perform.

In the time since I wrote this, more barriers have fallen between the two camps, enough that maybe there will cense being two camps… maybe. The biggest of these was VERSeFest.

Every day, in every way, things are getting better.

    Trapeze Artist

“I fly through the air
With the greatest of ease,
The daring young man
On the flying trapeze.”
People ask what I do
And I say poetry.
Forget the day job
Instead I lob
Verbal grenades
That explode, launching razor-wire
Or emotional glass shards,
Bringing it hard or light
To flee or fight
The ghosts
That haunt my dreams.

I share and entertain.
Despair and exclaim,
Leaving my heart and guts
Speading across the stage
Like the drainpipe
On a killing floor.

But is it poetry?
We call it spoken word
And who can deny?
We speak all right,
And yell, sing, chant, scream.
From shotgun blasts
And rat-a-tat tommy gun staccato,
Syrupy sweet and chili pepper
Razor-sharp sabre tongues and
Pin-pricked earworms
As you perch on the edge
Of your seat.

I have heard people say that
Slam poetry isn’t poetry at all.
It is bombastic and self-aggrandizing,
As if poetry requires a certain tone.
It is called dramatic monologue
Or stand-up comedy,
As if poetry requires a certain form.

They say slams aren’t art
But a complex set of moving curtains
Revealing mirrors that show
Only what the performers
(Don’t call them poets)
Want to show you.
Carnival barkers whose job is
To pull the wool stocking cap
Low over your eyes
To convince you that poetry
Is somehow cool and not a dead art
As you have been convinced
By a legion of barely interested
And less interesting
High-school literature teachers.

But it isn’t poetry.
It is spectacle and the braying
Of the ignorant masses,
Pulling down the ivory towers
To the thudding bass of a
Hip-hop beat.
As if the blowtorch blast
From a fired up flim-flamming
Is being used to ignite the
Funeral pyre for ‘real artists’
Sitting atop a burning book bonanza.

Sometimes we join in,
Hiding behind ‘spoken word’
To defend against sideways looks
When declaring poetry.
Shouting SLAM from the
Rooftops while slipping poetry
In through the back door,
Hoping nobody notices.

Bob Dylan eschewed the title poet
Because its meaning was so unlcear.
It encompassed so much
Yet explained so little.
Who defines the word
Controls the art
And there are peots the world over who never write a word.
A poet is a poet is a poet.
He rejected the title
And called himself a trapeze artist.

So is it poetry?
When we emote or opine
Rhyming ricochet or free verse
Fellations on a theme of
Raised voice relativity
Or potshot prophecies?
When we entertain, educate
Or enlighten?
When we reflect or expose?
Saline or sucrose?

Is it poetry?


“I fly through the air
WIth the greatest of ease,
The daring young man
On the flying trapeze.”

  1. […] pieces I performed were: Shadow Boxing, One Petal, Trapeze Artist, A Van Full of […]

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