amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christine McNair's Reading at Voices of Venus, Jan 11, 2011

Christine McNair’s reading at Voices of Venus last night was mesmerizing. Given 40 minutes to an hour to read, Christine was able to demonstrate a range of writing. Christine showed prowess in her use of sound: multi-syllabic words and repetition piling up to create a thrilling velocity. Some of her poems were amusing and absurd, which had the crowd laughing out loud. Others were more serious.

I have to hand it to Christine for being able to hold an audience’s attention for such a long time. The variety and range of her work made that possible. The range too within each piece was marvellous; in one piece, the repetition of hard k sounds and short syllables to longer words, short lines, long lines, variations in rhythms and cadences, some smooth rhythms and some stumbling because in life, we stumble, a range of language levels and vocabulary, and magical imagery, casting a spell over the audience.

I think what irks me about the spoken word community’s use of the word “page poet” was demonstrated last night by Christine’s reading. It is clear that Christine designs her work to be read aloud, the soundscapes are magnificent, her control over the line and the breath of the poem. There is such versatility in the sounds Christine assembles to form tones that can be silly, invigorating, melancholy and just downright fun.

To refer to Christine or any other poet working with words as a page poet is downright ridiculous and i’m sorry, it shows a lack of knowledge about what poetry does and is supposed to do. and yes, When a writer uses the whole range of instruments at her service, as Christine did in the creation of her poems and showed us last night, it is clear that the term page poet should be banished from the poetry lexicon. if you do it well, it's poetry, if not, it's just bad writing and that's it.

A Fool’s Grace
by Christine McNair
Dalhousie Blues, Ex-Hubris, 2009

bed with me lavender
tattoo some cuneiform

abjad into cardiac vessels
hot cut radiance blister

packed a two-for-one offer
of woad bled cover bit lip,

wrinkled stems pollinate
broken umbrellas, debride

torn silk back into lovers
spit, pacify capillaries

but just let go:
release my feckless heart
full punch to the ticker


Amazon Syren said...

I always figured that "page poet" and "performance poet" were two sides of the same coin. A bit like song-writers being asked "do you write the lyrics or the notes first".

I don't think "page poet" needs to be stricken from the language. I do think it could do with some redefining. (Like losing the negative assumptions about people whose poems play with the visual aspects of poetry - spelling-play and layout and so-on).

I'm curious about how someone who writes Sound Poetry, for example, gets lumped in with page poets instead of performance poets though.

I'm not sure how that one works. o.O

- Amazon. :-)

Amanda said...

the term page poet makes no sense because a poet (with some exceptions) is working with the language both on the page and for the ear. for instance, when i write i care about how the text looks on the page, but when i revise i read aloud to make sure the poem works for the ear. that notion of poetry is not new; it is part of the tradition. we don't need to say milk with lactose. it goes without saying that if you have milk, you have lactose. when there is no lactose,we say lactose free milk. so perhaps a spoken word poet might want to say page-free poetry, but page poetry makes no sense because the notion of the page is intrinsic to the meaning of poetry.