Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Speaking the Words We Write

I was thrilled to catch Def Poetry Jam on HBO last night. If you haven’t seen this program, it’s a spoken word and poetry performance. These poets do not speak from the heart. They whisper and roar from every molecule in their body and your body.

People often say, “Oh I don’t get poetry” and wouldn't try to read two lines. Performances like these visually illustrate the simplest purpose of poetry – the need to express and communicate to another.

I have to admire these artists because they can voice their poems. For me, writing is an act that is necessary as breathing. Yet, I’ve only read my poetry aloud to a few friends in writing groups. A year ago for the first time among strangers at a workshop, I read my work aloud. Afterwards, I was overwhelmed physically - blood was rushing and my body temperature must have risen 100 degrees. I received a positive response, which was encouraging and gave me confidence.

I don’t have a problem with public speaking. I taught and led presentations to clients, colleagues, professors and classmates. I’ve been the MC and made speeches at various Indian events. Not a problem.

I have public speaking confidence when what I’m presenting is not me. To read poetry or my writing would be to step into a zone of vulnerability and exposure.

When I watch spoken word poets, I know they’re taking their talent to the next level, which is where I need to be.

Another point for me is that writing is as solitary and silent act. I do read my work to myself, usually to check for rhythm.

When I read or write, I have this ‘voice’ in my head. The voice doesn’t trip over words, she glides and breathes into them. I like to write about ethereal topics. By actually articulating the poems, my voice makes the words seem so ordinary and lose their magic.

This is why I have to admire the talent of the Def Poetry performers. They know how to breathe life into the words and make them the voice you recognize in your head.

There was a girl in one of my writing groups, who was a poet. We found ourselves having difficulty connecting to her as a person because of her insecurities. She was inconsistent; she resisted sharing simple things, but then revealed too much. I saw her present one of her poems in a public performance. I was amazed how she transformed. She owned the stage. That was her space, those were her words, and that was who she was! For some poets, the public performance is a validation of who they are.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Broken Music - Sting

So, the Universe is pulling me to Sting this week.

I had an hour to myself yesterday and my car drove itself to the nearest Barnes & Noble. I went to the first place I always go in a bookstore - the Bargain Books. I believe one person's junk could be another person's treasure. I collect classics and books by Indian writers, which they may not mean much to the mainstream reading populace. So, I've found some great finds for under $5 or $10.

Yesterday, I found Sting's memoir "Broken Music" for $4.98. I've read only 30 pages and I'm captivated by his writing style. His prose is so lyrical and poetic it leaps off the page. For example, here's a line from the first paragraph:

"My wife, Trudie, and I are sheltering beneath an umbrella, while high above our heads two seagulls wheel recklessly in the wind; and the sea is a roaring threat in the darkness"

He could've said "Trudie and I stood under an umbrella and we could hear the seagulls and the water."

Actually, what made me buy this book were 2 paragraphs on page 298. Sting is in an old French hotel next to the alleyway where prostititutes have stood "for a thousand years." In the hotel foyer, there is an old poster of the play by Edmond Rostand, "Cyrano de Bergerac," which prompts this musing:

"He is a tragic clown man with an enormous nose and a plumed hat. He is a man entrusted with a secret; an eloquent and dazzling wit who, having successfully wooed a beautiful woman on behalf of a friend cannot reveal himself as the true author when his friend dies. He is a man who loves but is not loved, and the woman he loves but cannot reach is called Roxanne. That night I will go to my room and write a song about a girl. I will call her Roxanne. I will conjure her unpaid from the street below the hotel and cloak her in the romance and the sadness of Rostand's play, and her creation will change my life. "

I think that's what is appealing to me about this book that it's a memoir, not so much of an autobiography that zips through significant events. It pauses long enough to evoke significant moments.