Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sipping "Volcanic Sunlight"

Perhaps poetry is irrelevant today. Saul Williams, a poet, is not. When you perform at Def Jam events, when you make an album with Trent Reznor, when you project words, thoughts and feelings like a force of nature, relevance remains. It lifts you up.

I remember hearing Williams recite poetry at the end of one of the great hip hop albums, Blackalicious "Blazing Arrow." I remember being moved by it, but not knowing who he was. This past summer, TWM71 brought him back to my attention and I picked up his book "The Dead Emcee Scrolls."

If Williams just wrote poetry and read it at bookstores, he wouldn't stand out. That's the problem with poetry. It's too easy for people to dismiss. There's no cache. Why would I want to see/hear/read/write that?

Matthew Zapruder, also a poet, wrote a great piece in the L.A. Times called "Why I Rhyme." It looks at what drew him to poetry, but also at the evolution of poetry through rhyme to today's free verse. There are some gems there.

"Poetry at its most basic level is about the movement of the mind... the leap from one thought to another... that leap, that movement is what makes poetry." -MZ

Williams makes leaps from one form to another, moving beyond poetry proper. He is an actor, he is a musician. He has a singing voice that may be kin to Lenny Kravitz's. I think Williams' reaching out, expanding the boundaries of poetry to more culturally relevant forms of expression can invigorate poetry.

Williams' art is performance. That's what connects it. It isn't content to live quietly on a page. It wants ears. On Feb. 23, at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., it will have mine.