Trotted this completely revised and re-wired piece out at the Open Mic before last night's Poetry Slam at NoHo Poetry-
People are always asking me
(well, all right, once last year somebody asked me) -
What’s the difference between Traditional Poetry,
Spoken Word Narrative Poetry, and Slam Poetry?
The answer I gave to that question
was certainly influenced by how many beers I’d had,
and the fact that I, a Spoken Word Poet,
had just been dumped by a Slam Poet.
Here’s what I said-
A Traditional Poem features clever allusions
and carefully-wrought phrases about things
that are never what they seem to be.
You may be introduced to horses
banging copper pipes with clouds
fashioned from the heartbreak of their hopes
as they puff on cigars wrapped
with the shreds of our sorrow.
At first none of this may make any sense to you,
-but if you wait, you’ll find the horses
had a damned good reason for all that banging...
-or, at the very least, they were provoked.
A Spoken Word Narrative poem eschews allusion
and avoids complicated metaphor
in favor of a more straightforward presentation-
in a Spoken Word poem, for instance,
horses will never eschew allusions,
and they certainly don’t smoke anything.
A Slam Poem walks out on stage
and kicks you in the nuts.
And you’ll like it.
As you may by now have gathered,
a Traditional Poem about a horse
is not really about a horse-
the horse stands in as a metaphor
for freedom, or loyalty, or endless toil,
and you, the reader, are asked to figure it out,
or simply to think to yourself-
Wow, that’s a multi-talented horse.
A Spoken Word Narrative poem about the horse
will actually be about the horse,
and the poet’s relationship to the horse,
though the horse may, eventually,
be seen to stand as a deeper metaphor
for some other facet of life,
which the poet will explain to you.
In a Slam Poem about a horse,
the horse walks out on stage,
and kicks its rider in the nuts.
A Traditional Poem appeals to your Intellect.
It asks you to unlock its secrets one by one,
to unravel the metaphor thread by thread,
to come to the same place in the end as the poet,
or perhaps not, horses being what they are,
as sillabub cup dancers spin
on clouds banks of furrowed dreams
in the graveyard speaking only to me.
That last sentence, by the way, illustrates
why I don’t often venture to write Traditional Poetry.
A Spoken Word Narrative Poem appeals to your emotions,
-it communicates with the audience on a more
prosaic level. It can be every bit as lyrical as a Traditional poem,
but if it talks about sillabub cups
it usually really means a tiny silver cup to drink
fortified spiced wine out of.
A Slam Poem will buy you a drink
before it kicks you in the nuts.
And you’ll like it.