I met this really creative young poet a few days ago named David Levine. I felt at the time like I had just been handed a gift. He is the sort of person I’ve been looking for – someone young that has been doing performance poetry for years and has acute insight into the vast, and under-advertised, New York performance poetry circuit. Dave is into hip hop and performs with a flute playing beat boxer. It’s original. Check it out here
It’s the video called FUSE.
I was actually a little surprised when I saw this video. In person, Dave is polite and speaks in a disarmingly outside-of-the-box way, like an artist, not a rapper. I know he loves hip hop, but the other work of his that I have seen seems to be more avant garde than my idea of hip hop. I would have thought that he had already left hip hop behind, or would at least be doing it in a completely new way. He seems like an innovator. He has this long piece called Fuck the Slam that I will post here as soon as I learn how. It is a long diatribe about the limitations of slam poetry and how unfortunate it is that it seems to be the only popular venue for young performance poets. In the piece, he promotes a new form of public poetry that he calls a jam where people are not in competition, as in a slam, but collaboration. This is not a new idea, Dave just has some interesting ways to go about it.
One of his ideas is to do wheat pasting campaigns. This is akin to graffiti in that it entails covering city blocks with posters, each one of them containing verses, so that a whole book (or at least a poem) will spread out over several blocks.
Another idea of his is to get groups together to hold street performances that are like a form of spontaneous protest. If the topic is the current American war, then the group would go somewhere very public, like the subway or the airport, and give a series of public readings all centered around that topic. The purpose of this is to confront people who might disagree, give them something to talk about later, affect them. Performing a ‘Fuck Bush’ poem at the Bowery Poetry Club is singing to the choir. Like a gay pride parade on Christopher Street, no one is shocked. I think much of the point is to be shocking for its own sake, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Dave has done these sorts of things with random groups around the City, but he wants to make this a regular gig, like a performance art group.
He has been organizing similar shows and events for years in several cities in America and Europe and wants to galvanize a popular art movement in New York. No small ambition. I’m stilling learning about him.