Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Mayhem Poets

On Thursday night, I went to see the Mayhem Poets at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. What a treat! And because I went with a group from my school, we got a reduced rate. When I was young, in grad school, I always assumed that I'd teach English in a small, liberal arts college, where we'd have fascinating people and groups coming to visit. If we can't have that, going places to see fascinating people and groups is the next best thing (and it's a treat to live in a location where fascinating people and groups come through).

The Mayhem Poets consists of three poets (young, male, hip hop vibe) with an additional guy playing the flute while also creating a percussive beat with his body (foot stamps, mouth noises, that kind of thing). They created amazing rhymes, amazing sounds, amazing theatre.

It's the kind of night that made me think, I'm not challenging myself enough. I don't memorize my poems. I don't write them with an eye to performing them. My poems are fairly short--if I performed them, they'd take all of about 30 seconds.

My rational mind says, "Wait a minute. I'm working in a different area of poetry. And there's space in the world for both of us. We don't all have to be performance poets who go to slam competitions."

And I have a regular job. I have family commitments. I can't travel the country, sleeping on sofas, slamming my way through the poetry circuit.

And frankly, I wouldn't want to. When my chapbook first came out, I set up some poetry readings and some workshops, while continuing to teach. Only a few of my readings required travel. And yet, after that spring of poetry promotion, I found myself exhausted. I can't imagine keeping the schedule that the Mayhem Poets do.

I'm immensely grateful for people like them who can do it. It's a missionary calling, of sorts. They go out and generate enthusiasm for poetry. People who like one kind of poetry are more likely to fall in love with other kinds of poetry. The important thing is to ignite that passion. Thanks to people like the Mayhem Poets, who set the auditorium on fire.

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