With great trepidation, I read some of my poetry in front of an audience at my last grad school residency. I've always hesitated to associate the word 'poetry' with my poem-like musings, mostly because my experiences in undergrad drummed in the notion I needed to take far more poetry courses and follow far more established rules of poetry before I'd ever be worthy of calling myself a poet. This feeling of inadequacy has stuck with me over the years, and though I might post poetic pieces on blogs or social media from time to time, I generally don't ever do anything with this extension of my writing practice.
The response to my work, from peers and advisors at residency, was far more supportive and encouraging than I could have possibly anticipated. So much so, it's taken me an entire month to soak up all the ramifications from that one 10-minute presentation. In the interest of not turning this blog post into a novel, I will spare you most of those realizations for the time being. I will share this, though:
I've come to understand that, although I don't necessarily do so purposefully, I usually write to be heard instead of to be read. I think it's the performer in me. In other words, the one thing I was too afraid to give to my poetry was the one thing it needed all along: my voice. In that sense, the pieces are not really poems but rather, monologues. And with this minor distinction, I am far more willing to accept them as art and myself as the artist who created them.
This semester, I am experimenting with different ways to showcase my writings as spoken word pieces. Some ideas for bringing these poems back to life (and honestly, credit goes to my classmates for most of these ideas) include having dancers choreograph movement to them, creating short films for them, turning them into songs, and (perhaps most obviously but also most terrifyingly) finding the courage to perform them live at local poetry slams.
Another idea that came up is to take my individual poems and make corresponding visual art pieces for them. Ultimately, the goal would be to display the live painting in a gallery and, using iPods or something similar, people could listen to the poem associated with each piece on display while viewing each piece of art. This is the idea I decided to begin playing with first, mostly because painting relaxes me and I I can do it alone, in the privacy of my own home. It also doesn't hurt that I'm such a neophyte at painting, it somehow removes the self-induced pressure to be perfect (whereas, if I started out going the short film route, I'd be much more critical of myself and the entire investigation process would likely be more stressful than fun).
After executing this spoken-word-meets-visual-art strategy, I think this particular poem is probably too long to be practical for an art show exhibit. For flow and functionality sake, if I were to ever engineer this concept in a real world environment instead of just on a digital platform, I would want to keep each spoken word piece to under a minute or so. Honestly, that'd probably work better digitally instead. Still, I think the juxtaposition between the two (or is it three? or four?) mediums is cool. And this experiment brought up another idea. One could do several paintings that told a poem's story from start to finish and string them along in a video so that people were only looking at each individual image for about 10-15 seconds. Of course, I'd probably need to get much better as a visual artist before truly considering that route.
Next up: I want to talk to my dancer friends. Would any of you be interested in choreographing something to one of my poems?? If so, let's chat.