Sunday, October 14, 2012

A poetry community cliche which should be buried on land/at sea.

Here's the cliche:
If you're involved in poetry long enough, you'll hear Famous Local Poets talking about "bad" or "excruciating" open mike portions of readings--redeemed (maybe slightly) by "a few so-so poets" or (more likely when you hear this tale told) One Lone Excellent Poet That Made The Entire Miserable Experience Worthwhile.

Gee, what is it these days with the aspiring/perspiring literati and their open-air disdain for open mike poets?

Yes, there will always be open mikes with individual poets varying from awful to amateurish to promising to good to excellent.  Open mikes enable poets to learn the crafts of reading poetry in public and evaluating feedback on the quality of their work.

In bygone eras, a good to great open mike performance could lead to a host choosing a lucky poet for his/her first feature at a venue.

Nowadays, that doesn't occur as much since poetry hosts pride themselves on their "standards" so features tend to be already-established poets.  And the purpose for this is apparently to give the open-mikers an idea of what "standards" to aspire to (i.e. MFA study, workshops, private tutoring, fervent networking) to have a chance to be chosen to feature at some other lower-caste reading before you're considered for the reading with "standards." 

Problem is:
When there are fewer readings in a given area and the remaining readings tend to be artistically homogenous (i.e. repeated booking of a few select Names for features because they all have "standards"), open mike poets will have to get used to waiting a long time for The Big Break--with a higher risk of not being chosen by that venue's host(s) at all.

Before I finish this post, I'll offer another passage-of-time observation tangential to this post's topic:
There were readings in the L.A. area in the late 90s/early 00s that had a large, loyal following of poets who would read on the open mike (thinking particularly of the Poetic License series and the long-dead Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica) week after week regardless of who the featured poet happened to be.

There were occasions where certain readings had all-open-mike-poets without features.  Sometimes, a decent-sized audience turned up--and other times, not as much because no feature was there as a Special Attraction.

The last time I went to a certain long-running venue I won't mention here, there was an all-open reading because no feature was booked that week.

And, consequently, none of the reading's regulars attended.

It's something to think about the next time a Famous Local Poet gets overly pious/sonorous about "the poetry community" and looks down his/her nose on "excruciating" open-mike poetry segments.

No comments:

Post a Comment