One minute of script
Bob Holman is a main figure in the New York City scene for spoken performance poetry. In an interview, he speaks on his profession with this powerful statement “when you’re performing poetry, that’s also part of the creative process. It’s not just a presentation of a finished piece… writing a poem continues as you perform it” — — — 5 second pause — — Writing a poem continues as you perform it. That’s the crucial piece that distinguishes performance poetry from more conventional works. Sure, any written poem can be read aloud and technically considered performance poetry. But for the artist to really deliver their piece, the performance aspect needs to be given extra thought, since the oral delivery is part of the poem itself. Think back to your favorite song from earlier in the show. Would reading the lyrics on a blank page have the same effect as seeing it performed live, front row at the artist’s concert? Of course not! The delivery of both your favorite song and a performance poet’s piece develop strong tone, passion, and rhythm. They give the words on the page life in a way that reading a print version of the piece cannot. Let’s look at one of Bob Holman’ pieces to get a better picture of what I’m talking about here. The following excerpt I’m about to read is narrated in the view of an audience member who is watching a performance poet in action.
“He’s diving off the front of the stage!
You better bring the house lights up some
The audience can’t see him
He’s still screaming, screaming and
Dancing and he’s twirling the mic-
I dunno, should we turn off the mic?
I dunno, turn it up? He’s running around, he’s twirling and
He’s still like reading
The book is in his hands, sort of, the people
Seem to like it, they’re into it
Maybe it’s part of the act”
Notice how there’s no mention of the content from the performer; it’s all in the way he performs. The running, screaming, and jumping all create a chaos that evidently pulls the audience in. That’s what performance poetry is capable of.