Thursday, January 31, 2013

Performance Poet

Last night was the last upcountry literary event scheduled in the library for 2013. The featured artist was the poetess Glenis Redmond, an amazing writer who was one of those who started the poetry slam contest in the upcountry in the early 90s. From her talk, I felt that she has strong intuition in the way she pursues her themes, fearlessly going to her roots and exploring her heritage, particularly the brutal history of slavery in the South. She also has graduate degrees which gave her a certain polish and academic distinction but she never loses her earthiness and common touch, her sassiness and verve when displaying her Southern roots. But I am struck by the way she listens to herself when she crafts her story, listening to her dreams or the urgings of her subconscious to complete a certain theme, never failing to grasp intuitively the meaning of her work. But the best part of her handiwork is her performance, when she surrenders herself to the ecstasy of her poetry, delivering a presentation that complements who she is with her prose.

After her talk and reading of poems, a young lady in the audience, an aspiring poet herself, asked for some tips. Redmond advised that she should do a lot of reading, writing and speaking, especially if she aspired to be a slam poet, delivering performances of her poetry to get herself known, describing her early experiences reciting poems in girl scout meeting and other non-artist events, (perhaps traumatizing young girls with her raw work on civil rights like prose on the Birmingham violence). At least that advice gave me some comfort since I am almost doing the same thing, though I also learned the importance of intuition and to listen to one’s inner voice especially on one’s identity. For example, Redmond mentioned that her last name is not her ‘true’ name; since it belonged to the slave owner; or speaking on the language of her people, for example, when asked when they worked the cotton fields, the illiterate laborer answered from ‘can’t see to can’t see’ meaning before sunrise and after sunset, when darkness covered the land.

One can learn more about the Carolinas and the South by listening to these local writers, while also gaining writing tips. For example, from Vera Gomez one learns about celebrating one’s roots, from Dot Jackson one learns about perseverance, from George Singleton one learns about the ease of writing naturally, and from Glenis Redmond one learns about intuition, courage and identity. It was a good month where one starts the year right, with one’s literary aspirations bolstered by the examples of these artists, a good turn after attending the Modern Poetry course in Coursera last year.  What next? I am still deciding whether to attend the Creative Writing 101 course (USD $ 300.00) or should I just proceed and write following the example of Singleton, Jackson and Redmond. But I believe both Singleton and Redmond had creative writing instruction, perhaps achieving MFAs, while I am cobbling together a sort of MFA experience by attending online courses and joining local literary events in the library. But the development of the whole person is important (reading, writing and speaking) following Joseph Campbell, Werner Erhard and Stephen Covey with perhaps Toastmaster contributing to this goal.

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