Slam goes soft

June 6, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno

 

I’ve never been a fan of slam poetry, for reasons I’ve never been able to articulate. Luckily, Marc Kelly Smith, the creator of the genre, articulates it for me. In an article from the New York Times, articulates it for me. In the worst case I’ve ever seen of wanting that cake and eating it too, he complains about slam getting too mainstream, while getting to plug his two new books entitled “Take the Mic” and “Stage a Poetry Slam”. He also refers to himself in the third person.

Slam poetry was invited into the White House last month and it is also the focus of the recent HBO documentary series “Brave New Voices.” So you might think that the originator of the poetry slam, a raucous live competition that is more likely to take place in a bar than in a bookstore, would be feeling rather pleased these days.

But from his base here at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Marc Kelly Smith expresses mixed feelings about the growing popularity and respectability of the art form that he created almost 25 years ago. From the start, he envisioned slam poetry as a subversive, thumb-your-nose-at-authority movement, and he wants to ensure it stays true to those origins.

“At the beginning, this was really a grass-roots thing about people who were writing poetry for years and years and years and had no audience,” Mr. Smith said recently, just before his weekly Sunday night slam at the Green Mill. “Now there’s an audience, and people just want to write what the last guy wrote so they can get their face on TV. Well, O.K., but that’s not what people in this country, from Marc’s point of view, need. We’ve got too much of that. This show wasn’t started to crank out that kind of thing.”

Here‘s the rest.

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