I took myself on a poetry date yesterday, celebrating the at-long-last seasonable spring weather and my new work schedule that gives me Saturdays off. I headed downtown to the Harold Washington Library to see Campbell McGrath read. I like his work, especially the long-lined poems that wrestle with American culture. In the Q and A portion of the reading he was asked a question I couldn't quite hear about rap music. I could hear his reply, which was basically that there are two strains of poetry in American culture: the popular, populist, poetry of rap and slam-style work, and the more sedate and cloistered poetry of academia. He said we must remember that poetry is at its root a performance art--poetry was meant to be heard out loud, and enjoyed by groups of people listening to the poet. He added that both strains of poetry could learn from each other, and that the strongest work being done currently was a hybrid mix of the two.
After the reading I bought a copy of his latest book, In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys, got McGrath to sign a copy for me, (he was very pleasant but I think a bit tired and ready for to be out of there) and then I went upstairs, in a grand marble library room, to work on a piece for my upcoming gig with the Tuesday Funk reading series. It takes inspiration from three things: my recent fascination of the freaky dark ballads of Helen Adams, my long-time obsession with spiders, and my recent discovery that there were servants in the middle ages called "spider brushers," people whose job it was to brush spiders and other vermin off of the nobility in the house. So I am writing "The Ballad of the Spider Brusher's Son."
It rhymes, it hopefully will work well aloud, and it contains some of the darkness, gore, and twisted sexuality that Helen Adams' work contained. I have another draft or two to get through, but its going to be ready for its debut. I want to make Helen proud.