Friday, September 10, 2010

The Reports of Poetry's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Reports of Poetry’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Over the past 20 years I have heard and read more times than I can count that nobody reads poetry anymore, nobody buys poetry anymore, and nobody cares about poetry anymore, that in effect, poetry is dead. But everywhere I turn I see evidence quite to the contrary. The most recent of that evidence came to me from a town where one might expect there would be little poetry and little interest in it, a town with a population under 10,000 and only a small branch of a community college, the town of Lincolnton, NC, where a group has started a series of Open Mic readings called Poetry Lincolnton that takes place at 7:00 on the first Tuesday of each month at Generation Bean Coffeehouse.

I read as part of that series recently and was blown away by the size of the audience and the enthusiasm the participants had towards poetry. Organizers of the series, Lincolnton poets, Devona Wyant and Shane Manier, and Generation Bean owner, Kym Miller have sparked a great deal of energy about poetry in a place where one might not expect to find any interest at all.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about this reading was the “performance vibe” of the local readers. For those not familiar with the notion of performance poetry, it is a diverse blend of poetry, song, recitation, music, theater, and sometimes movement that will vary greatly from place to place and person to person. Different manifestations of this oral art might be called slam poetry or spoken word. The particular style of performance poetry displayed during my visit to Lincolnton was clearly influenced by rap music, and characterized by confrontational themes, frequent rhyming in short lines, and a fast pace, all of which make for an enjoyable and often surprising event.

I so thoroughly enjoyed the readings that I invited the group to share their work at Poetry Hickory, and on September 14, at 6:30, Wyant, Manier, and Morgan Depue will do just that as their performances will constitute the Open Mic segment of Poetry Hickory at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. The featured writers that night will be NC Poetry Society President and retired Davidson Professor Anthony Abbott, and recent UNC Wilmington MFA graduate Jason Mott. To whet your appetite for the evening’s poetry, here is a poem from Shane Manier.

We are poets

We will raise the sun with hands like Gladiolas in bloom.
We will learn to walk like the elephants,
and our arms will extend like an art form
becoming triumphant trumpets.
We will push the laughing eyes back
with palms as steady as a Buddhist monk.
And we shall burn in the fires of ambition
while marching to our birth of revision.
Because this is our day.
This sky is ours to sizzle with our fingers,
we will drip the sound of inspiration
and it will flow sweeter than perspiration.
We will turn adjectives into nouns
because our thoughts are profound.
We are the carving on the stone,
after the monument has fallen down.
We are more than historians spoon feeding textbook givens,
more than story tellers or musicians,
more than friends, lovers and "fam".
We are the voice inside you
when you need the strength to rise again.
We are the wet rag that soothes your head,
the noble words that honor our dead.
We are the reminders, truth finders,
the seekers of wisdom,
and the power to break free from what imprisons.
We are individuals, defenders, dream welders.
We are poets.


  1. I am thrilled about Poetry Lincolnton and had a wonderful time when I attended. I remember Shane "performing" this poem and how it made me smile. Excellent.

  2. I see poetry all over Mississippi, too. There are readings in little bookstores and coffee shops, plus in the Poetry Society groups and the Miss. Writers Guild. I have heard some readings on the radio here, too. I like the idea of us walking like elephants!

  3. I love my evening class but I can't wait to have my Tuesday nights free so I can try out Poetry Lincolnton and get back to Poetry Hickory!

  4. Poetry Lincolnton
    Generation Bean Restaurant & Coffee Company
    First Tuesday of each month.
    Featured Poets 7 PM
    Open mic to follow.