Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I went to a poetry event on Tuesday night when my body had a relapse due to the viral resurrection, but I had promised to take these American girls to help out my South African friend who is hosting them (10 students at Cornerstone College are hosting 35
American 3-week California exchange students). So we went, and it never fails. For any arts performance featuring the voice (musical theatre, vocal music concert, opera, play, etc.) there is always at least one other non-English language. This one had complete poems in other languages. And the host kept speaking in Xhosa with a mix of English. At first it was normal and cute like the TV soap operas without the subtitles for the Xhosa words. But without the English subtitles you sometimes miss the Xhosa (or most of the time) words. Then I started not to like it because it becomes alienating I thought. She started speaking in Xhosa for extended periods of time and it was nonsensical. Anyway, there were two warrior/praise Xhosa poets that were cool. I really appreciated them. Everything else that was American was not so great for me as I have been burned out on the American scene where poetry events start with such artistic integrity in creativity and then mutate into an event where everything is angry and about either race, sex, or other oppression. That’s why I’ve sometimes enjoyed going to performances of what I call non-performance poetry because the range of topics is greater and creativity hasn’t been loss. You can here poems about the flowers, about miracles, about the mirror, about anything. I miss that.

Moreover, many poets don’t realize that simply complaining about the system and criticizing it is a weak position and bolsters any establishment. Instead you have to offer an alternative, a viable one and then you add credibility. Then people have to take you seriously, then people must consider your other option. As long as its complaints, as Jim Wallis says, it’s just taken as the routine, perfunctory, and institutional minority opposition opinion and things remain status quo. In other words, we expect a minority opinion to differ and may even LOOK for it to know that we are on track. Same with Iraq; if you disagreed you had to have given an alternative to add fuel to your case otherwise, it counterproductively fuels the mainstream flow or status quo. Incidentally there were a group of churches from across the globe that came together and did just that (minus the Southern Baptists—they did not denounce it).

So it was interesting watching the people put on American accents or the South Africans who talk like Americans because they watch a lot of movies and TV or hang around Americans and imitate. Perhaps people might say the same for me, I don’t know. But I disdain when the profanity and presentation takes more importance than the content. Give me content, content, content. The same thing happens in the music industry.

But I did enjoy seeing the African poets. I hadn’t seen people doing spoken word from their culture here, appropriated and acculturated. I enjoyed that. And there were a few good American-style spoken word poems that were uplifting and encouraging.

Who I Am Listening To:

Hugh Masekela (South African Jazz Trumpet Player; biggest Jazz artist here)
Flamenco music (various artists)
Norah Jones
Miles Davis
Alison Krause
Passion of Christ Soundtrack
Michael Buble
Ben Harper
Blind Boys of Alabama

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