I do not generally go looking for poetry. But a few months ago, it found me, and we’ve been close ever since.
Kym, former student of mine, said, “You’ve got to come to this poetry concert with me!” Uh….yeah. I think I’m busy. But I went because she is like a daughter to me, and I wanted to share something she loved. So I trucked down to the cool part of town one night a few months ago to see Buddy Wakefield, a two-time World Poetry Slam champion. I figured it would be serious, obscure, obtuse, and dramatic. I was prepared for black berets and tragedy.
When he took the stage, just him and a microphone, intangible electricity sparked between his fingers and the people sitting in front of him. He married words together that had never even dated. His words made me cry, not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy at the beauty of language and what it could do on a bare stage with one person and a host of willing witnesses.
It truly changed my mind about poetry. I decided to spread a little of that to my English class, my creative writing students who were equally as wary of poetry as I was. I showed them a DVD of Buddy and his cohorts on what they call the Poetry Revival Tour (www.thepoetryrevival.com) I wasn’t sure what they’d think….would they think it was all just babbling? Obscure, self-absorbed b.s.? Would they see and feel the beauty? Would they fall asleep?
No. When the DVD was over, they clapped. They cheered. One kid, a wrestler who isn’t all that academic, came in the next day and said, “oh, my god, I stayed up all night watching that guy and listening to poetry!” Another girl said, as she left the room, “Poetry can change the world! I want to be a poet!” They clamored for more. They wanted to write it. They wanted to read it. They wanted to be part of this amazing thing that didn’t require advanced degrees or permission.
So now we’re on a journey that will end with an old-fashioned beatnik coffeehouse in my classroom sometime at the end of May. We’re working on images, on putting words together like painters put colors on canvas, on not judging too harshly what we do as we do it, but editing later. We’re looking at words as pieces of an intricate jigsaw puzzle …but the edges of the pieces are malleable and can move to fit in wherever you want.
Aside from the sheer awesome feeling of inspiring somebody (something that happens too, too little in public education), I had the added benefit of getting fired up about writing poetry too, something I haven’t done for a long, long time, and never like this. I sat down yesterday and wrote three poems, and images and words kept pouring into my head all night, begging to be written. It made me feel so excited, so energized, and lighter in the soul.
So, try on some poetry today. Get on the Poetry Revival. As they say in the film, they welcome “lovers of word lightning and high powered love storms.” Sounds like many Scribophiles I know. Here are the first stanzas of The Information Man by Buddy Wakefield:
After over 300,000 miles,
12-dozen breakdowns nervous,
one too many midnights
and a bunch of broken laws later,
I have come here from out of the rain
and into this rest area
caught 22 miles between you and me,
watching the information man
behind his information booth
juggling predictable conversation
with folks who look like iceberg lettuce
and who believe that somehow
the flat lines of small talk will give us life.
I want them to leave,
like a big deal orchestra removing itself from the stringed section
so I can fiddle with fate and make music.