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Hell No, Poetry's Not Dead

Saul Williams is a poet.


He's a Poet.

There are still wordsmiths out there to whom poetry is a calling. An ordination. Important. Life changing. Crowd rousing. Ghetto smashing. Serious. Saul Williams is the most serious Poet in America. He's a game changer. Hear him and you feel empowered. Feel enlightened. Feel different. Better. Stronger.

Last Tuesday, I had the honor of seeing Saul Williams perform at the Bottom Lounge. There was music. There was poetry. There was a crowd in awe. A crowd chanting along to poems that end in lines about uplifting the consciousness of the entire fucking world.

It was a damn fine show.

It was the kinda show I wanted. Gritty. Jubilant. Raucous. The kind of interaction between poet and crowd that I wished I had when seeing Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the Poetry Center in Chicago ten years back. It was ALIVE. The whole crowd was blissfully fucking aware and excited. Don't get me wrong, Ferlinghetti is one of the reasons I am a writer. He was an excellent reader and, at the time, in his 80s. I have a City Lights logo hidden in my sleeve. His poetry made my brain better. Made me a better person, a better writer. But when I saw Ferlinghetti live, it was a morgue of a crowd. Academic. Silent. It wasn't a room. It was an ivory tower. Yeah sure, Jack Kerouac was long dead, but I still expected at least one wild cat with a jug to chant "Go, Go, Go!" when the poetry was getting good. To do something besides smile and calmly clap and get a book autographed after the show. I wanted to be that person when no one else was. I wanted to be the one to stand up after a poem and bellow "HELL YEAH." Or to stand on my chair and stomp and get rowdy, because Christ, to steal from Auntie Mame, doesn't good poetry make you want to "LIVE LIVE LIVE"? But I was nineteen and at a real live Poetry Center event and I was intimidated by all the money and suits into behaving what was supposedly "appropriate." It's been ten years and I'm still pissed at my suppression of audible joy.

I can sure as hell can tell you it was the last time I was intimidated into behaving around poetry.

BUT! Saul Williams, now there is a fella who can work a crowd. Who can make 'em sing. Make 'em dance. Make 'em pause in the middle of a rock show to get down with the poetry sound.

Here is his most famous poem, "Coded Language" as performed to the drum and bass of DJ Krust:

And here is "List of Demands." Trent Reznor saw this video and asked Saul Williams to tour with him. Then Reznor went on to produce Williams next album (The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!).

I can't say anything more than this:  Saul Williams writes poetry that makes my heart larger, my soul satisfied and my mind expand.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 28th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Frighteningly satisfying. Very beautiful. I only watched the second one. I will watch the first when I'm feeling less tired. So beautiful.
Mar. 28th, 2012 02:32 am (UTC)
And he's not so bad on the eyes either.
Mar. 28th, 2012 02:34 am (UTC)
That was maybe what the second "beautiful" was for. I'm not too proud to drool over dark-eyed Poets. Never have been.
Mar. 29th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Oh my. He's cool.
Mar. 29th, 2012 04:27 am (UTC)
Mega agree button.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Patty Templeton

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