It Doesn’t Feel Right

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MoleSkineAs a poet, I often have a hard time coming up with something to write about. For those of you who know me well, you’re probably snickering since I’ve practically filled up my little notepads and 3-month old MoleSkine and constantly write on 3 different Internet venues. Yet, I can’t sit here and tell you that I’m a well of words. The problem isn’t writing about randomness; if that was my objective, I’d have a whole world of experience to fall back on.

Instead, I want to do something different from what I’ve seen in poetry. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Tribes on 3rd and Ave. C to hear, among other women poets, Tara Betts, who I’ve reached out to every so often for poetry advice. Anyways, she read a poem inspired by a survey a friend handed her. The “survey poem” outlined many of the (mostly negative) stereotypes that she’s seen in the poetry scene, and I thought it was an awesome reflection of the stagnant poetry coming out these days.

StaceyAnnI personally have more experience with the performance poetry crowd, and it’s gotten so bad that now every poem sounds like an Amiri, Saul, or an Audre remake. While those just learning any craft have to imitate their inspirations, they also need to grow into their identity (read: stop biting!).

I live but a few blocks away from many of the great poetry spots in New York City (The Nuyorican, The Bowery, and Bar 13), and I still have an aversion to going to the shows to watch people talk about:

– how bad hip-hop music has become (when they’re contributing to the dilution of poetry as a whole)

– the latest on Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, George W. Bush, or anyone else that’ll make the poet sound revolutionary or non-conformist

– the names and quotes of MLK, Malcolm, 2Pac, Rosa, Angela, Maya, or anyone else that’s associated with true Black leadership for the same reasons as the last point

– how to make a slam poem (you can’t slam slam poetry by making a slam poem)

– how well or badly some sexual partner performed oral sex on the poet

– a random assortment of words that combines the last few topics together with a ton of words no one understands or even why the poet put them together in the same verse, but people call them “lyrical” so it’s hot anyways :: snickers::

That’s a small list, yet similar to drugs, women, and money in popular rap music, too many of the poets these days harp on these subjects, so I rarely go to the poetry spots anymore unless I want to perform. I always see myself up against what I see within the poetry scene as well as my own writing.

Speaking of which, apparently, I might be twice published by the end of the year (as in through books, because I have a good web presence as is). I’ll let you all know.

Mi gente, paz …

jose

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 2

  1. pre_k

    man you know a lot of poetry isn’t done for the art. a lot of it is done out of self expression. then again a lot of people are doing it as a career so essentially is all about the money in that respect. some times i question does innovation matter in light of a message being delivered. at least i am hoping that through the necessity of telling a story that someone tells a story that hasn’t really been told before.. in order to hear different poetry i think you have to leave the nj/ny metro area.. that is just my opinion on the matter.

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