The Inevitable KW Poetry Slam Rant

Trigger Warning: FUCK YOUR GODDAMN TRIGGER WARNING!

Dear KW Circle Jerk

You want a fucking rant? I’ll give you a goddamn fucking rant!

I have tried to be polite, and I have failed. I have decided that I will talk to you in the only language you understand, rants. This is a difficult process for me, because I’ve been taught to hold back on the sheer amount of concentrated rage I can express, so that I don’t offend, or more importantly frighten, the people around me. Well to be quite frank, I have been offended, day in and day out by you. So because we are all one big happy poetry community, I am going to bring up some of my problems with you.

1) YOU ARE NOT CUTTING EDGE!

I have heard you call yourselves cutting edge. This is a bold-faced lie. The KW Poetry Slam is about as cutting edge as Justin Bieber. The only real difference you have from Justin Bieber is that you are working in a genre that wants to be popular, but isn’t. Sure, Slam Poetry is better known then the academic branches (whatever those are), but at the end of the day you are still the popular form of the left-wing, and you are still pandering to your audience.

Let me make this clear. Women have been writing about how their vaginas are beautiful vortexes of creation since the 1960s. It has been close to fifty years now. It is no longer cutting edge. It is cliché. The Poetry Slam has been around for almost thirty years, it is not longer the new form, it is the establishment. Every Slam Poet writes about some cause. Heck, I’ve written about police brutality. I have yet to see anything at the KW Poetry Slam that is something I would describe as new.

You want to write about being a feminist, that’s fine, just don’t call yourself cutting edge unless you are.

Actually, what would make a poem cutting edge anyways? That it is faster than previous generations of poems? That it’s not only a poem, but a camera and a butter knife and what have you?

2) FUCK COMMUNITY

This connects to my accusations that you are pandering to the audience. I hear a lot about community at the KW Poetry Slam. I hear a lot about community in the Poetry Slam world in general. You know who else has community? INBREED CANNIBAL HILLBILLYS!

Actually, that’s not a bad way of describing the poetry slam. Controversy to sampling aside, poems have been known to be recursive for years, centuries even. I’m not holding cannibalism against the Poetry Slam in general. It’s the incestuous hillbilly thing that bothers me. You average Poetry Slam usually has the same few people, and eventually rules start developing. You expect certain things. You start so what anytime someone says Marc Smith. Why do you do that? Really, has anyone ever explained why this happens?

Anyways, my point is that the KW Poetry Slam has itself up so that a certain kind of poetry keeps up. It’s not that Kitchener-Waterloo only has poets from this kind of area, it’s just that the KW Poetry Slam attracts the same kind of poet. And they all do the same kind of poem. The “I am a beautiful snowflake and I am going to tell you about all the horrible things those rich white men do, but don’t worry because we have the power to change the world,” poem. Seriously, that is the only poem I hear from you. Could it kill you to write something that has nothing to do with that, and maybe, I don’t know, grow as an artist?

3) SOCIAL COMMENTARY ALONE DOES NOT ART MAKE!

I’m not saying art isn’t about social commentary, I believe that is one of art’s functions. My problem is that you are only social commentary, AND IT IS GETTING ANNOYING.

“Oh, Dylan, you can’t say that,” says the Slam Poet. “You’re just ignoring the fact that our society perpetuates rape, and Stephen Harper is destroying our country, and that Israel is setting up a Holocaust in Palestine. You just don’t have a social consciousness, like we do. Don’t you care about saving the world?”

You know what Slam Poet? No, I don’t care about saving the world. Fuck saving the world. I am so sick of you going on about saving the fucking world. You only talk about saving the world. I am at this point ready to say fuck the world, let’s end it now and put it out of it’s fucking misery because I am sick of you saying that I need too.

“But Dylan, art can be a powerful force of social change,” the Slam Poet says.

No, art is not a force for social change. Art is a byproduct of social change. Was Hitler suddenly defeated by a play? Did Pol Pot suddenly decide not to commit genocide when he heard a poem about how bad killing people is? Among all the poems, all the songs, all the books and movies made about George W. Bush’s grand eight year fuck up, did he show any sign of stopping? At this point, your only hope of poetry having any social change, is that the wind caries your piss in the general direction of whoever it is you are complaining about.

Again, I want to reiterate that good art can, and does, discuss political issues. There is a difference between a work that addresses social issues, and examines its effects on human beings within a society, and a piece that just talks about them. There is a difference between saying “The War on Drugs has a negative effect upon society,” and “The Wire.” There is a difference between saying “Good art cannot flourish under a totalitarian state,” and “The Master and Margarita.” There is a difference to saying “Since 1993, there have been 5000 unanswered deaths of female factory workers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,” and “2666.” These works show fully realized human beings, humans with strengths, desires and flaws. Human beings who are not mouth pieces for the author to go off on whatever rant he feels like. These are what I like to experience as a reader and viewer. I’m not asking you to give the next Great Canadian Novel, but you could at least seek to try giving us something human instead of talking about what affects humans.

4) I DON’T NEED TO BE ANY GOOD AT POETRY, BECAUSE THIS IS A POETRY SLAM

I have gotten this response from a prominent member of the KW Poetry Slam. I will spare her the indignity of saying the name of this individual, but this quote has stayed with me. This is probably the most disturbing, offensive thing I have ever heard at a poetry slam. Talking about rape and genocide is expected, but this is something that I find disturbing on several levels.

I admit, I am not the best poet. I am not very strong at metre, and I write very infrequently. I do like to put effort into my pieces. If you have heard some of my poems, then you should know that the next time I perform them they will be different. In fact, I was thinking of reworking a few of them to have stronger mnemonic devices so I can more easily perform them without a page. And the Poetry Slam is a very seat of the pants type of poetry. But there is still that one line, that you don’t really have to care about poetry. You just want a creative (I use the term loosely) way to bring up social critique. Ultimately, you don’t change, and without change, you can’t have good art.

It may seem foolish, but I expect the standard of art I hear to be of the same standard as the guy who does my plumbing. My father always told me that you should put your best into whatever it is you do, even if it is something you hate. Well God help me, I love poetry. Can you blame me for wanting to put in a little extra effort? And can you blame me, for being offended when people take a thing I love and treat it shabbily, as if poetry was just a prop in their trunk of polemics?

So to wrap this up KW Poetry Slam, shut the fuck up and look at yourselves. Really look at yourselves. You are not as deep as you think you are. You are not as good as you think you are. You are not the avant-garde, you are not the new face of poetry. I am even going to say that you are not horrible. You are not offensive enough to be horrible. You are just average, and in the end that is a bigger sin then being horrible.

ADDENDUM: When I wrote this I was tired and angry at things beyond my control. If I have offended you, I am sorry, but I stand by my basic point. The KW Poetry Slam has become a recepticle of all the faults of the Poetry Slam form, and has become dry, unchallenging, and boring. It is ultimately inevitable that the Slam would become an institution, and with it loose much of it’s vitality. In the name of good art, it is time for us to seriously consider an alternative.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kirstilouise
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 01:48:31

    “No, art is not a force for social change. Art is a byproduct of social change. Was Hitler suddenly defeated by a play? Did Pol Pot suddenly decide not to commit genocide when he heard a poem about how bad killing people is?”
    Fantastic. Completely agree.

    Reply

  2. Curtis
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 23:40:23

    I would have enjoyed a little hashtag about the final point- that if you don’t have to be good at poetry, then you’re relying upon the lowest common-denominator to praise you for their ignorance and easily ‘over-awed-man-ship’. Which kind of like poaching, selling scalped t-shirts at concerts or faked paintings- knock offs of the masters. There was a movement in the modern called the ‘art for art’s sake’ which was inclined to attempt to divorce themselves from reality- which kind of sounds like eating their own shit and smiling so people can see it in their teeth. But what can I say, the feminist pages of slam also cause me to believe that they bake with their own monthlies.

    Reply

  3. Curtis
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 23:45:00

    At the same time, your rant strikes me to ponder the realities of fear that must penetrate their regime, that they may say something original or misplaced, which causes questions, or flits with the norm. Art produced from fear is unquestionably bad. What might they be afraid of, mere scrutiny, actually changing the world, controversy…. I feel like I am not hitting the thing that it likely is, it’s probably some unbeknownst, maybe language, or humility… perhaps disordered beauty, as beauty really is… leaves a hanging question for examination…

    Reply

  4. korahomes
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 06:55:40

    It sounds like your calling for an end to hypocrisy. Those who stand on there soap-boxes preaching and not thinking about what they are producing… absolutely nothing. Most social movements are ONLY successful when there is activism, and some end in violent means. People need to be called out… it’s called tough love. I don’t think you should apologize for what you say especially if you mean it. On another note… do you like to critique others poetry? That’s the only way some people (like myself) will get better. So, that’s a passive way of asking if you would critique stuff from my blog… and I’d be happy to do the same if the invitation is received. Lastly, there is a thing called righteous anger, even the man Jesus used it.

    Reply

    • dylantern
      Nov 26, 2012 @ 09:37:00

      It’s not so much hypocracy, in fact I doubt there is a dishonest bone in any of the main competitors of the KW Poetry Slam. My problem is a general lack of depth. Yes, I agree that rape is bad, but writing a poem about how bad rape is dosen’t really adress the problem of rape. They are basically only restating assumptions with a personal slant.

      Reply

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