Poetry – A Revolution Off The Page

January 23, 2013
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Having barely taken my coat off at the little pub in Chinatown my friend says, “you’re up next,” as the open mic on the awaiting stage causes my blood to heat.

Very well, I’d picked my poems, had a sip of water and stepped up to the poet’s pulpit, a place where rhymes and little fragments of dreams begin their manifestation from page to stage. The rhythmic, lyrical prism of my heart catching the light of eyes on my every move, pose, and presence, daring me to make the drinks taste sweeter with words and illustrations painted by brushes wrought of human soul.

Poetry is dead.

That’s because it’s not what it used to be, and cannot be again. Words on the page hardly hold the sway they once did as I’m reminded of a scene in the Tudors television series when Anne Boleyn swoons over a small book of her lover’s poetry. Today we Tweet, text, sext, and always look for what’s coming next down the pipeline of a sometimes digital deluge, saturating our senses 9 to 5 and 5 to 9.

But that’s okay, because that’s what the time and place is bringing us now, today and words of course still have the holiest role to play in all and anything anyone may wish to express, anything we say. We know a picture is worth a 1000 words but the right word at the right time – I love you, I need you – can be worth at least a fair rate of exchange.

Book in hand ready to flow the first poem titled, Anatomy and Physiology, a lone artist steps into the ethereous realm of modern monologue, a place where balance is found in motion of hand and word and eye and feel, time drawing closer to an infinite point of now as the story begins.

Poetry is dead, as a phoenix.

Today artists or almost any professional, in any profession knows, the interconnected realm of the digital space has made everyone a necessary Jack n’ Jill of at least a few trades. Video blends with music, installation art with dance, web designers tell stories, everyone is a playwright, and we can all do it almost for free, especially with some “creative” downloading abilities – and yet the currency is still the same, the question still begs – what are you trying to say?

Poetry, usually at the fore of the revolution and change, has taken a back seat in this volley of explosive creative sensations to hit the modern day. It’s gotten so bad that some writers have become apologists for poets and their craft, as though poetry were the undernourished, underprivileged child of art.

And maybe poetry does need a good bowl of soup to put some meat back on its bones, but that’s only because we have forgotten how to hunt. The doors are open and the need, the desire is there as people search the Twitter feed daily and find nothing, aching for a community with meaning and purpose accessed not through some mechanism of advertising, but from a calling of the human spirit aching to press the bounds of what is, and what maybe.

As the first lines of the poem hit the air, I can feel the palpable pull of the audience to my voice, calling my body, hands, and being to hit each mark and line and phrase because a performance is a journey set on by viewers and actors, do’ers and witnesses, flames and eager candle wicks on a cool, dark night.

Afterward, my friends ask to record a reading and sample the phrases to electronic music, another wants to animate the scenes, while I humbly and genuinely wonder if my work is worthy; if in this time when all fanfare goes to the visual artist, the star musician, and those kinesthetic wonders, maybe there is a place for the aching heart of a poet believing, hoping he has something valuable to say? I welcome, fully, these collaborations as they are indeed the future of my art and believe without doubt that the creation shall be more than the some of its parts.

The time and place, when and where words on the page are enough is over. Poets, must evolve to embrace mixed media – music, video, photo, stage, dance, digital, analog, science, food, all types of art, as tools and all artists as collaborators in exercising the poetic voice. There are some doing so already, quite successfully, but we need more as this revolution needs take its shape not on the protest line, but within the medium itself.

Poets, with keen eyes to see those little moments in a day worthy of a reposeful half-smile; poets, who discover strands of tapestry weaving seemingly unrelated aspects of life together and of whom great stories have been told, must once again venture into lands unknown.

Poetry is dead, and shall rise again.

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Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a professional environmental educator, writer, and social good project developer as well as a recent graduate of NYU's Environmental Conservation Education masters program. Lee has also studied at the Center for Creative Ecology on Kibbutz Lotan, Israel and at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Currently he has been leading development of the Global Action Classroom, an Earth Child Institute initiative focused on global youth environmental cooperation and helping to create the Global Sustainability Fellows, a program of The Sustainability Laboratory seeking to design a new and innovative, international sustainability masters program. Other projects include: developing mobile applications for encouraging social action, mixed media video design, leading peace and environmental education workshops, and doing his best to live a life in connection with the Earth while helping others to do the same. At heart Lee is a poet, traveler, musician, and philosopher with a deep curiosity for new experiences, unfamiliar cultures, learning languages, and often dancing to the beat of a different drummer. As student of yoga, meditation, and spiritual arts, Lee aims to connect the inner journey with the outer one, hoping, as he can, to share what is learned along the way, enjoying the journey.

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