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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

There's been a small and badly-named discussion of hip-hop and poetry at the New Poetry mailing list (click here and scroll near the bottom), which reminds me I never said anything about how it went at this month's Stammer, a monthly poetry reading and open mic in Raleigh, usually at ArtSpace. And usually I'm out of town, but I snuck in to this one through the grace of MC Mz Julee.

The Murray Street Band, from Greensboro, opened up with some very sweet piano-guitar jazz. The bass player, especially, was lots of fun to hear and to watch—she really got into the music. I was a little nervous for us poor poets to have to follow them.

They helped the transition, actually, playing behind Sean Ingram, the night's first featured poet. Well, it didn't help me, because my old man's hearing had a hard time picking out the words, but my wife could hear clearly enough. Sean's a hip hop style performer, and the band did a good job following his pacing and cues.

The rest of us read a cappella (I wonder if they could play in 5/4 time?). I wasn't taking notes and can't remember everyone who was there, but the two right before me, Tanya Olson and Langston Fuze, are formidable performers. Tanya's first piece was a cut up of news reports about a Lumbee Indian who defied a Carolina Klan rally with Gertrude Stein's "as a wife has a cow, a love story." Very funny, very pointed. She read two other pieces, one she'd done for two friend's "commitment" ceremony (and joked about whether that was a good name for a joyful occasion), and a hilarious fantasy of breaking up with Priscilla Presley because she couldn't become a Scientologist.

Langston performed next (he memorizes his long performance poems) with his usual excellent pacing and dynamics. He's won several local slams and he deserves to. His last piece (and the only one he read from a text), about "being comfortable making a movement" in all of the possible senses, was from his first book (why didn't I take notes so I could tell you the name?).

Then it was me before the break and the open mic (Langston doesn't like to go last.). I read all new sonnets (not all of them) from my Jan-Feb binge and they went very well. I'm used to the stage, and I'm big and loud and confident, and that goes a long way, but I'm still always pleased to be able to pull off IP in such venues. I invited people to send me requests by email, and about a half-dozen people asked for cards. You can use the Request a Poem link at left.

At the open mic, it was great to hear John Dancy-Jones, an old friend of mine who for years ran a weekly poetry reading at his hand-laid papermaking business. Check out his links page. Getting up with John again was probably the best thing about the evening for me.

The next Stammer is April 9th, at the Bickett Gallery, and this time I'm officially in the showcase. There's apparently going to be a band, too, since the gallery calendar lists it as an EP release party for Schooner.


Also upcoming in the Triangle is the Carrboro Poetry Festival, June 5th and 6th. Blogland's Chris Murray and Kasey Mohammad will be reading there, and I'll be around for at least the Saturday part of the show. It's free, and Carrboro/Chapel Hill has lots to do on weekends if you need a break from poets.


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