|The 24/7 open mic global freak out machine
||[Sep. 9th, 2013|10:28 pm]
Prior to the internet being a tool by which rational people could indulge meltdowns, flamewars and TMI in front of a potential audience of the entire world, I took part in the poetry reading and slam scene. At the time, stage poets had a reputation as being fucking crazy, even for poets, as they occasionally exhibited a lack of boundaries, invested so much emotion in something of so little material worth, indulged titanic grudges over obscure things in circumstance so ephemeral the pettiest backstage contretemps or academic conflict seemed weighty in comparison. Because nutty professors and actors are still on a spectrum of capitalist value. Nearly all poets verge on glorified hobbyist status.|
Anyway, poets crazy. I once hosted a reading in which I introduced a duo features thusly: "They used to date, then they had an awful breakup. Now they're going to read poems about each other." I was surprised at how many otherwise jaded/sophisticated people were taken aback by this, but they weren't poets. Maybe because it was in the flesh and done just because. And then they went on as normal, as ripping each other's heart out onstage was the side activity that it was.
Edited to add: Between these peak dramatic moments - and even during them, actually - we were just people jotting down thoughts on a page and occasionally reading them out loud. The context of poetry makes such a plain thing evocative, though what it evokes ranges from aggressive indifference to raer transcendence.
Today everyone is a bit of the poet at some point, having that public moment of acting out which makes others go "the hell?", though mostly sans the pretext of art. It is frequently more intense than the most ill-thought slam night confessional piece. Yet one could argue a guy reading "Yes This Is An Angry Poem And Yes It Is About You" while the subject (whom he slept with once) sits 10 feet away is "special" in way a vindictive tweet can not be, even if it goes viral.
On the other hand, as a poet I am taken aback by the unhinged shit fit that some conservative published science fiction authors are having because lefty John Scalzi won a Hugo. In the old scene a spectacular loss of boundaries or perspective was a transitory thing with a decidedly limited range, even those printed in poet newsletters. These folks are expressing an attack of over-the-top right wing feels in infinitely reproducible text, and they do not appear to have poetic temperaments otherwise. They might never flip out like that into a microphone onstage, but here no social norm can restrain the impulse to rant without reflection.
I realize this all is a well worn observation at this point, but it still amazes me sometimes. And, of course, I do not exempt myself from any of this critique.
Anyway, poets crazy. I once hosted a reading in which I introduced a duo features thusly: "They used to date, then they had an awful breakup. Now they're going to read poems about each other." I was surprised at how many otherwise jaded/sophisticated people were taken aback by this, but they weren't poets. Maybe because it was in the flesh and done just because. And then they went on as normal, as ripping each other's heart out onstage was the side activity that it was,
Hi there! :D
It was quite cathartic to be very upfront about the fact that that's exactly what we were doing. It wasn't anything we hadn't already been doing for months (as you know), but I think we both found it liberating in a sick way. Whenever anyone reads angry/heartbroken breakup poetry, their friends always know who it's about anyway. Why not drop the veil that doesn't fool anyone, and do it face to face?
I don't think it made our relationship or lack thereof any worse than it already was. You know how some people have divorce ceremonies/parties? (Well, we had one of those too) This was kind of in that vein for us, with the added bonus of making the audience as uncomfortable as possible. It was awful. But I don't regret doing it.
The internet has opened up vast new opportunities for performance rage. It's fascinating.
Ha! The person I was dating at the time was so freaked out by it she left the room and she was an artist who did personal work. That was totally bad ass for a bunch of bookish people talking about their feelings.
I think despite the aspect seeming rawness, poems are art and the context of a stage and event are distancing devices. So even when someone just loses it and was acting out at an open mic, there's a performance frame which both enabled the transgress and contained it. It also amplified what was there. It is just writing down words and reading them out loud with infrequent drama, but poets have had a rep over centuries and cultures, so there's just something about doing that which provokes strong opinions.
There's a persistent "oh shit, it's poetry" factor (although the reason for the "oh shit" varies).
The internet, as you point out, is also a performance frame, being just a box you can hold in your hand. But the always on, public/private confusion and capitalist functions means it is more enabling yet a less secure and defined frame.
*Old man voice* when I wanted to be pretentious and emo in front of others, I had plan ahead, leave the house. sing up on a list and rarely got to reach more than a few dozen people. Now the livejournal and tumblr lets you do it globally from home without even pretending it's blank verse.
But the always on, public/private confusion and capitalist functions means it is more enabling yet a less secure and defined frame.
*makes a note of this excellent phrasing*
(I keep leaving you comments that amount to "I was thinking about this subject too and I really find your thoughts on it valuable". I feel like I should say more than a spelled-out 'like' button. But anyway.)
(Also, personally, I am so weary of conservative SF, but anyway.)
That should be "sign up on a list".