Checking-In With The Stage Poets
I canât find any proof of it, but Iâm pretty sure locally-bred nonlinear intellectual Matt Cook once said that DaVinci had invented a working helicopter long before theyâd ever come up with a practical airplane. I donât know if this is true and I canât remember for certain that it was Matt Cook who said this, but I remember him saying that all his best friends skipped the plane and went straight to the helicopter.
I can identify with this.
Some of the most brilliant people Iâve ever encountered have been extremely impractical. This is significant: it should be pointed out that impracticality is not absolutely necessary for genius. Truly impractical people, however, make an art form out of genius. I'm not saying this is good. I'm not saying this is bad. I'm saying some of the most brilliant people Iâve ever known have been performance poets.
There is no questioning that poetry is highly impractical. Few manage to make money and even fewer manage to make a living as poets. Those who become famous as poets are mythicalâthey donât actually exist. Iâm sure of it. Thereâs really no glamour in poetry beyond the words and the words themselves are never terribly excited to work with you as a poet. Chances are, very little of what you say as a poet will reach very many people and it will almost certainly be misunderstood. When itâs at it âs best, poetry kind of an extravagant attempt at non-functioning telepathyâhighly impractical. Bar and cafĂ© style performance poetry takes this kind of impracticality and amplifies it considerably. In the early â90âs, I asked a rather brilliant gentleman performance poet who called himself Desmond if heâd ever hadÂ anything published. He responded by saying that heâs not âin this for immortality.â At first, this seemed like a non-sequitur to me . . . months later, I realized his answer was extremely precise. As a performance poet, youâre living for that moment between audience, language, text and identity. Itâs a fleeting connection. It doesnât always happen. And by virtue of the ephemeral nature of stage performance, itâs temporary and very short-lived. As sure as youâre getting on the stage, youâll be getting off the stage. And thereâs no glamour or immortality in that. Itâs a different way of connecting up with reality and the language, though . . . and itâs truly unique to performance poetry.
Itâs been a long time since Iâve been a regular to a bar/cafĂ© performance poetry venue, but it was a big part of my life for nearly a decade. In the late â90âs. there were poetry open mics every other night all over the east side. Now there are only a couple weekly venues that I know of. I just got a press release for Still Waters Collectiveâa long-running stage poetry series run by Milwaukee poetry icon Dasha Kelly. Every Thursday at the Taste of Art CafĂ© on 4701 West Lisbon. September 3rd, Still Waters presents local poet Michael Cockroft. Thereâs a slam competition on the 10th. Korim--a guest feature from Austin, Texas comes in on the 17th. On the 24th, thereâs a collaboration where attendees are encouraged to scribble something out to perform based on a single word and the 24th. Every performance is opened and closed with an open mic.
And of course, one of the longest-running performance poetry traditions in Milwaukee continues at Linnemanâs Riverwest Inn on 1001 East Locust St. every Monday Night. It's where I met my wife. I remember going to Poetâs Monday long before I met her. I started going back in â95 when it was downtown at the now defunct CafĂ© Melange. It had been at a few different venues since then, finally landing at Linnemanâs, where itâs been for quite some time now. The show starts every Monday at 7:30pm with what has historically been the most stylistically diverse poetry open mic in the city, followed by a featured performer of some sort. The evening is hosted by Timothy Klossâeasily one of the best writers Iâve ever encountered in any format . . . but not the most digitally connected guy in the world. There is no Poetâs Monday website. As of this writing, the list of upcoming features hasnât posted yet on Linnemanâs website. I hope to make it back there sometime soon.
Thereâs a myspace page for the venue, but that hasnât been updated for a little less than a year now. It is interesting to see through the Myspace page that Desmondâs still performing as Edgar Allen Cash (and you really havenât lived until youâve heard The Raven performed as a Johnny Cash song,) and Chuck Claymore (a staggeringly clever and witty guy known around the circuit as âAskew,â) has moved to North Hollywood. Things move ever forward as always . . .