Wednesday, May 10, 2006


had a thought while sitting at the venue last night... i was going to freestyle a poem. i've done it before, like once, last thanksgiving. the audience was small and intimate - just the kind of crowd that's most receptive and understanding when you want to try something new. it went fine. and last night, the audience was small and intimate...

and a line popped into my head, like, "start with me, and see where it takes us..."
and i was like, "word, words."
i even knew the mood of the poem and had some idea of why that first line was flirting with me.

but then when i got up to say something, i pulled some old featherweight mess, talking bout some, "let me just flip through the book and the first thing i see is what i'll read." it's weird how in the quickly fleeting moments between having the inclination to freestyle and getting up on my two feet, i just backed down off of what could have been something good.

on the one hand, i feel like i punked out because i didn't know if i would like what resulted if i just went for it with no plan. on the other hand, i understand how tempting it is to have control over where a poem takes you - when i create something, there's a sense of power there, and there's always that knowledge that if want to change directions, i can pump the brakes with a simple erase or scribble. not so with something off the dome. once your words are out of your mouth, there's no pulling them back, and if you want to bring the piece to any kind of resolution, you have to work with what you've already uttered, or reject something you've just said without being able to make those words non-existent.

writers don't need to improvise.
performers do.

and a large part of the reason i love writing is because it allows me to say something in just the right way - i can mull things over and take whatever time is needed to articulate things from unsaid to said in a way that is faithful to what needs to be communicated.

the difference between a "paper poet" and a spoken word artist is not their writing, nor is it their creativity, nor is it their intelligence, nor is it their passion. it has something to do with the art of performance.

now some of us are blessed to be able to do both. i have met some of these folks. i consider myself someone who can do both, thanks to poet friends who led me to see the value in opening my mouth. but even so, there are strengths and weaknesses. over this past (almost a) year that i've been sharing what i write with my voice, i've been learning what my strengths and weaknesses are. and i know that my true comfort zone is in the writing process. speaking my words is an adventure - it reminds me of my acting days, and it adds a rich and valuable layer to this poetry thing for me... but ultimately for me, home is the page. performance will always be peripheral to me in favor of the act of getting the words just so.

so yeah, i'm a little disturbed that i didn't go out on that limb and freestyle that poem last night. but... not so much. 'cause i still remember that first line that tempted me. and i still remember the mood of the piece and why that line popped up. and you betta believe, i'ma get it on some page... and the brightside is, it'll be captured. it may lack spontaneity, but it'll have a home in my notebook, where i can visit it time and time again, instead of having the words evaporate to the four winds, never to be heard again, like it would've if i'd freestyled it last night. *shuddering at the thought of losing one of my brainchildren that way*

like my reader dean says, write on, write on...