The Spice of Life.

9 Feb

Lovely, lovely time at the Seattle Poetry Slam last night. The crowd listened and laughed at my silly jokes. Plus they bought so many books! You should buy one too! Seattle is wise and would never lie to you.

My last show in Oakland happened last week, at Tourettes Without Regrets‘ Fuck Valentine’s show. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Tourettes is my favorite show in the nation, appealing to my bawdy and highbrow aesthetics, as well as my sense of wonder. Recently, it’s occurred to me that many of the shows I most enjoy share a similar framework: The Encyclopedia Show, Real Talk Live, and The Oversocial Mofo Revue all come to mind.

This has led me, recently, to grandly proclaim that we are entering the golden age of the variety show. The recent surge in the popularity of burlesque has something to do with this. The punk rock generation coming of age enough to own and run venues and host shows is related, too. Hip hop becoming a cultural fixture matters. Slam blooming and maturing matters. Stand-up gaining more and more validity matters. The gradual crumbling of the big recording companies, the rise of easy online tools for independent artists to share their work – it seems this has led to a different kind of focus on grassroots art.

I love the variety show for a few reasons. For one, I actually really do prefer variety. I’m the gal that prefers to nibble off several plates than to gorge myself on one entree. I like travel, I like dating, I like collage. Maybe it’s partly a multiculti thing; maybe it’s just where I’m at as an artist.

For some time, I’ve felt frustrated by my own limitations as a performer. The possibilities the stage affords are immeasurable, but for most of my slam career I’ve simply stood onstage speaking words. There’s tremendous power in this, of course, but I’ve always wanted to push my own boundaries and see what I can do. Artists like Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Mike McGee, C.R. Avery, and Patricia Smith, who reinvented the monologue… To a certain extent, slam is inherently genre-bending, but folks like this, who do it very consciously and well, inspire me to go new places.
I’ve been working on this. About a year ago at the Vancouver Slam, I tried out a new technique (stolen from Ed Mabrey), and used bits of song to transition between some of the poems in my feature set. The crowd loved it, and I tried the gimmick a few more times over the following months, gradually gaining confidence. Around this time, I wrote “Celibate Boyfriend” and “Salem 1994”, the first poems of mine to actively incorporate song.

The next level, for me, is working with focused, talented musicians to craft even more flawless, transcendent experiences (Derrick Brown is really excellent at this). I’ve been talking to my sister, B. Steady of The Lost Bois, about collaboration, which is already yielding some exciting results. I’m also in serious conversation with one poet in particular who shares my vision of creating a comprehensive experience with poetry and music (no spoilers yet).

This is just to say that if variety truly is the spice of life, I actually do want to be your spice girl, my darlings. Stay tuned for the next revolution of Planet Yes. ❤

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One Response to “The Spice of Life.”

  1. Jeffrey Spahr-Summers February 10, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    variety is indeed the spice of life! 🙂

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