Poetic Standoff

I met with a DKP youth activist participant tonight at a poetry party in downtown New York. It was a cafe with a very rich history in the cultural worlds of New York artists and writers. I arrived at the spot with a copy of Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which I received for Christmas  and recommend to anyone who wants to read a punk rock New York memoir.

Our conversation was amazing, and you will meet her more in the coming weeks. But what I found most noteworthy tonight were the series of events that occurred at the end of the show. I rolled in about twenty minutes before the end of the show, anticipating a gallery opening and finding a poetry slam instead. Approaching 7 o’clock, the performers were warned to bring the show to a close. When the hour arrived, the performers were shut down. The two men on the stage wanted to drop one more poetic riff, but the bartender wouldn’t have it. He called to the tech to cut the microphones.

There was silence. The audience stood motionless a moment, awaiting the next move. Would there be a riot, a shouting match, or worse? People looked around nervously. Then the performer began his piece without a microphone. The singular, silent sound of his voice was inspiring and frightening. Probably 30 seconds in, he forgot the words. He said he needed the music to help him move with it. The bartender stepped up to the mic, explained that there was another show going on exactly then, and officially brought the poetic event to an applause-free close.

I would’ve liked to have arrived earlier so I could’ve known what the vibe was like all night. I can respect the need to bring the event to an end to keep the night moving. Still, I couldn’t help but think about #occupy. Why do people shut each other out of spaces with such malicious force? What is the real impetus behind the urges towards control, management, and containment? How powerful is the human voice to capture an audience and communicate a message even when amplification systems have been cut off – or outlawed?

~ by Elizabeth Bishop on 2011.12.28.

2 Responses to “Poetic Standoff”

  1. “What is the real impetus behind the urges towards control, management, and containment?”

    Fear…of uncertainty, in particular. That’s one possible answer, but I can’t be certain…

    Yay to your blog!

    • Thanks! Do you remember in Waking Life when the old man in the bar asks “What is the more universal of human emotions: fear or laziness?”
      While I am concerned about apathy and hubris, I am totally inspired by creativity, imagination, and the spirit of so many collaborators.
      It fuels me to create life-affirming work in the tradition of the Nietzschean “amor fati.”
      There are spaces to create possible peaceable connections everywhere.

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