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Urgent Language Poetry Slams in the Writing Classroom.

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Presentation on theme: "Urgent Language Poetry Slams in the Writing Classroom."— Presentation transcript:

1 Urgent Language Poetry Slams in the Writing Classroom

2 A Poetry Taxonomy TheThe Personal Poem (The Moaner) –“I”-centered; realistic, everyday settings; often explores relationships & emotional disorders of various kinds; may be confessional; may be narrative. Desire to ex-press, but may also be inward-looking. TheThe Visionary Poem (The Mad Seer or Visionary) — Poet as divinator; person with special insight or vision into what others can’t see; able to tap faculties of the psyche which are not conscious or rational. Poetry as rare and extraordinary experience. TheThe Formalist Poem (The Maker or Craftsperson) — Poet as shaper of language; brings order to the chaos of language; “sculpts” words into beautiful, enduring objects for our contemplation. May write exclusively in traditional verse forms. TheThe Spoken-Word Poem (The Wandering Minstrel; Bard) — Poet as one of the people; the public singer who brings poetry to the fields and streets; poet of the community; tends to be outward-looking. Poetry as sound.

3 Spoken Word Poetry The Oral Tradition The sound of the belch’d words of my voice, words loos’d to the eddies of the wind… I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself… In all people I see myself—none more, and not one a barleycorn less… A call in the midst of the crowd; My own voice, orotund, sweeping, and final. My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach; With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds, and volumes of worlds.

4 The oral tradition in English is really old, but still alive: Home r 600 BC Old English poetry 700-1066 The Beats 1950s Slam Poetry 1980s to present Ongoing efforts to keep the oral tradition alive Hey, Daddy-o Medieval folk songs Serbo-Croatian guslars African “talking drums” ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ Sumer 200 BC


6 The Beat Poets of Mid-Century The bohemian coffee-house and jazz scene Dissatisfaction with “classroom poetry” or academic approaches to poetry. The beat poets take their cues from Father Walt! Increasing alienation between parents and children; unease with American Dream, atomic age


8 And then there were slams. Another SUB-SET of the spoken-word mode is the slam mode. The slam poem came about in the 1980s in a coffee house in Chicago and was meant to free poetry from the classroom and re-energize it. It tends to be performed in rowdy contests and continues to this day at local and national levels.

9 How do poetry slams work? A Brief Guide to Poetry Slams

10 Check out these sites to learn about slams! AND

11 Characteristics of this tradition an d mode? Expansive Inclusive Lends itself to PROJECTION; that is, to being spoken loudly on a stage or outside or in a large group May be theatrical Communal; tends to celebrate the community, the whole, or public concerns And of course…IT’S FLIPPING FUN AND CAN SOUND REALLY GOOD.

12 1.Blurring the line between poetry and theater; performances are like one-person, one-act plays. 2.Aggressive, clever, sometimes funny rhyme, not in any strict pattern (triple rhymes, internal rhymes, slant rhymes, repeated words, etc. In video, “Lazarus, Lazie, Lazy”). 3.Projection! Loud broadcast. 4.Number of unstressed syllables don’t matter, maybe. Success depends on how cleverly you get the four stresses in (rap). 5.Getting into a groove. 6.Memorizing the material adds interest and cred. 7.Mixing genres: insert singing, use accompanying sound, etc. 8.Ritual presence of performer.

13 benefits in the writing classroom

14 Formalist Any Writing Course Readily available on web as written and performed texts For practicing and studying expository mode s Easy to grade!!!!!!!!! For studying varieties of English Springboard for discussion of social issues For studying and practicing argument As literary and social genre For studying and practicing rhetorical analysis

15 Provides opportunities to explore the physicality of language ; language as sensory experience. The body in the classroom. A unit on this can include easily found ads which exploit literary devices in the “attention ground wars” Can also include readily available political speeches, slogans, sound bites, etc. Compelling ( engaging to most students) and provocative (enables energetic discussion). May turn students on to literature. A multi-cultural urban phenomenon. Entryway to discussions of diversity. And...

16 and good for possible discussions of Craft Not discussed much in comp studies (to my knowledge), though this may be changing (e.g. Douglas Hess, “The Place of Creative Writing in Composition Studies”)

17 samples

18 Saul Williams Saul Williams What do you notice? What’s the guy doing? Gymnastic Rhyme and Wordplay Energy Hyperbole Metaphor Allusion Pastiche Pathos YouTube, “Amethyst Rocks, 2:11 A variety of qualities and poetic- rhetorical devices Anaphora Physicality of language A weakness: repeated reference to “them” and “they”: externalizes evil--no reflection on personal culpability or participation in evil = somewhat weak ethos, credibility May antagonize rather than persuade; limited audience Message fuzzed or fudged at times in verbal wackiness Craft neglected here and there; e.g., lack of modulation

19 Kattie Makkai Compelling personal anecdote Strong appeal to pathos Theatrical use of voice and tone Elements of parody Nice example of critical thinking—i.e., interrogating social norms, discussions of gender PRETTY! YouTube, “Pretty,” 2:11

20 Taylor Mali Parody (mocking his subject makes the subject’s rhetoric visible) Personal anecdote Pathos Persona YouTube, “How to Write a Political Poem,” 3:28

21 Jeffrey McDaniel Personae; dramatic mode Classification as expository mode Relatively clear and punchy figurative speech Spoken Word Revolution CD, “The Foxhole Manifesto,” 2:11 (or YouTube, 5:00)

22 Dylan Garity Personal anecdote Pathos—as well as relatively heavy emphasis on logos Good for discussions of rhetorical situation. Compelling and timely social issue| YouTube, “Rigged Game,” 3:19

23 Button Poetry Books Viral Rachel Rostad Lily Myers

24 Common Hazards of the Slam Poem as Mode of Argument Often relies excessively on pathos and personal experience for support Sometimes reduces the complexity of experience to black and white categories Often relies excessively on catharsis as chief effect Preaches to the choir Precludes the relatively quiet and complex acts of intensive reflection and analysis (these acts don’t lend themselves to loud theatrics in large public venues)

25 Hazards as Poetry Doesn’t the contest format make it into a game of winners and losers, precisely what a democratic approach to poetry SHOULDN’T be? The physical performance can obscure the fact that the poem per se sucks. Banalities, cliches, etc. The performance can overpower attention to words, language. Sometimes quiet, written poems are insanely powerful as well as completely original. The slam, at worst, just promotes yelling and histrionics. It quickly became as conventional as anything else— readers doing predictable political material in a predictable voice and style.

26 Poets who demonstrate closer analysis and intense self-examination

27 Annotated bib forthcoming!...maybe.

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