In our plugged-in culture, poetry can be a tool of saving grace. Mediated by status messages and screens, we miss the visceral experience of witnessing someone tell a story in the flesh, complete with facial expressions, flailing hands or strained voices. Performing and witnessing those stories, shouts and emotions evokes a variety of reactions: identification, dissonance, disgust, redemption. Whatever the reaction, there is power in the public deliverance of words.
Desdamona recalled a performance on Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minnespolis: “In the space that’s not known as a performance space, it’s intimidating. You’re in the street, there’s cars going by, there’s people in the street.” Passersby reacted: some stopped to listen, others walked on the other side of the street. Recognizing the effect of telling one’s story was a revelation for Desdamona, “You did that. So they may not have heard what you said, and they missed the message if they walked to the other side of the street, but what you were doing had this power to actually push them over to the other side of the street!”
Ed Bok Lee – “The Secret to Life In America” from “¿Nation of Immigrants?: Minnesota Spoken Word Artists & Poets Question the World.” From the Loft Literary Center, 2008. Used with permission of the artist.
Discovering Spoken Word and Slam in the Twin Cities
Canvas – St. Paul
Spoken Word Institute and Open Mic – December 27-30, 2010