Therapeutic Value

The Bowery Poetry Club is perhaps most important in it’s role as a nexus for all things performance poetry happening in the City. This creates a collaborative, cross-fertilizing opportunity for the poets, thus encouraging innovation, while providing the audience with precious insight into the current performance poetry landscape (at least that of New York). The range of shows is spectacular. For the next several Sundays, rather serious seminars will be held about the impact and legacy of major New York poets like Whitman and Ginsberg. Then this coming Tuesday, a poetry and avant-jazz trio will be providing an alternative soundtrack to the silent 1925 classic, “The Lost World,” which will be playing on the big screen on stage. These two programs are isolated events of the type always moving through the BPC. In the regular lineup, every Saturday there is a college slam competition followed by a professional poetry show, of some sort.

I have noticed a salient feature of all the young poets that read in these amateur competitions – they all seem to be wrestling with massive inner demons and childhood scars. Last week, two of the winning poets rapped about having been raped, and growing up without a father. The young man that grew up without a father had been stabbed in the face as a boy and had a damaged left eye. Their readings were both powerful, even approaching sublime at moments. However, I think I was more moved by their poems that weren’t about their inner pain, though that is, in itself, very jarring. Perhaps I would not have felt that way if I didn’t already know some of their secrets by the time they got around to reading their less personal stuff. For instance, Kareem (the young man with the damaged eye) took the stage for his final reading and said, a little shyly, “This one’s about nature…I like nature,” and then recited a beautiful description of full clouds before a downpour and at sunset. I hope to post that video on this blog this weekend.


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