Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Still Waters Collective's 10th Anniversary

10 Years of Spoken Word Celebrated at Broadway Baby

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Spoken word is probably on the bottom rung of the performing arts hierarchy in any community. While the local music scene in any major city is perpetually fed by people looking to make a living with their music, there isn’t any kind of precedent for that in spoken word. Very few people can make a go of it and make money speaking into a mic without also trying to make people laugh. And so it goes with spoken word and poetry . . . every now and again a style rises to prominence that comes to so completely dominate open mics that it ends-up crowding-out the kind of diversity needed for a stable stage genre. In the 50’s and into the ‘60’s it was beat poetry. In the ‘60’s and into the ‘70’s it was hippie poetry. In the ‘80’s and into the ‘90’s, it was hip hop.

And though the millennial resurgence in performance poetry may be a good ten years past by now, it’s nice to know that there are those who are still speaking into the empty space through a microphone various places. This Saturday, May 22nd, spoken word group Still Waters Collectivecelebrates its 10th anniversary with an extended performance at the Broadway Baby Dinner Theatre on 5132 West Mill Road. The show starts at 8:30pm. There’s a reception prior to the show at 7pm. The show is hosted by longtime Milwaukee poetry talent Dasha Kelly. Performers featured on the evening include some names I recognize from poetry open mics on the east side back when poetry open mics were still reasonably frequent there. Dan Vaughn and De’shawn Ewing had some level of insight in their work, but the biggest name to pop out at me has to be Darlin’ Nikki Janzen. Nikki’s work has grown quite a bit over the past . . . decade since the first time I’d seen her perform. I don’t attend poetry open mics . . . at all anymore, but the last time I saw her perform was the first time in years and her work has really progressed. All too often, a poet sinks into a certain kind of form that feels all too comfortable. The worst cases of this result in writers crawling into themselves without any regard for developing the kind of thing that makes writing so energizing to begin with. Occasionally, though this can result in some really amazing stuff. All of Matt Cook’s stuff seems to come from the same place . . . at least all of it that had come out in his first three books . . . and it all has a kind of resonance. What’s great about Nikki’s stuff is her evident willingness to pursue different moods, styles and forms and present it all onstage. It’s been some time now since I’ve seen her perform. It’s nice to know she’s still out there along with a rather large list of people I’m happy to be unfamiliar with.

In total, Still Water’s Tenth Anniversary Show features twelve poets. Advance tickets are $15.

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