Lemn Sissay on Slam Poetry | Spoken Word Archive

Lemn Sissay on Slam Poetry | Spoken Word Archive

to say that I don't like slang is to probably dismiss all of the incredible poets that have actually sort of flown from the slam scene but I will say that slam poetry was established in the same year of the Gulf War and every war has given rise to poets who would rail against it in the 1960s is a great example Adrian Mitchell read a poem about Vietnam at the Albert Hall I think slam poetry came into the house of of poetry and and rearranged the priorities of what poetry is rearrange the priorities and let me just give you an example of what the priorities are in poetry and what slam poetry said the priorities are let me also give you an example of how to build an ivory tower by blaming other people's ivory towers so it's this first the rout of poetry is in the poets belief in poetry and belief in their poetry and belief in their creative spirit from that root you grow a sense of critique but the critique can only grow with care and attention you know you don't just throw a plant in the ground and go right grow and if you're bad forget you so that's a really tender process of which the writer has to sort of harden you have to go out in all weathers you know to tend this beautiful thing the poem and the creativity and you have to allow it to grow in the way it can grow some arms Oh radicals some hours will grow inside some you know branches you know will grow up to the light some of them will go down to the roots whatever let it grow and tend to it what slam poetry did was said okay stand in front of an audience and if they tell you that you're good then you're good but if they tell you you're not you're not that's like everybody's standing around a plant and saying this is not a good plan this is a weed let's take this weed out so that a good plant can grow and and the nature of neoliberalism is then is that yeah yeah is that the market forces become more important almost than the product so what pop and slam poetry did is said the true value of your worth plant is not in the miraculous uniqueness of what you're doing it's in whether they tell you that you're good or not and that is an incredible lie to what is the immense power of the truth of what poetry is actually all about you know I'm not really concerned whether or not you like my poetry I'm concerned that I'm writing and I'm growing as a creative being this will serve me forever you won't you will go this this interview will be over you know so so I can't be defined as to whether you like me oh no no a lot of the time in my career people will be saving me that's really arrogant lemon it's not actually that's the most humble place and a person can never say that they are humble because that's not humble but what I'm trying to say is that is that I am the poem is the play the Queen and I'm its dresser and I sit at his throne by its throne dressing it and making sure as best as I can do that the threads are right and then I just watch it walk out this is the development of the artist critique this is the heart of what it is to be an artist am I looking out at you all and saying please tell me whether whether and what I've done is good or not this is really important because what this means is that insulin poetry there is quite the possibility that number one we have lost an entire generation of poets and number number two the priorities were always wrong now that's the first point to set up this idea what you must do is accuse an ivory tower of keeping you out before you build an ivory tower yourself you must find an ivory tower that you feel you've been kept out of now this is tricky because there are gatekeepers and there are people who say you're not allowed in and they are in poetry just as much as they're in football just as much as they're in any other department of blah but as a poet you can not be defined by what you're against you must be defined by what you're for and nothing for me me that is the creative spirit to go wherever he wants to immediately what happened with slam poetry right at the beginning was particular kinds of poetry would win the slam poetry blow and particular kinds of poetry wouldn't hey there's your ivory tower already being built the found so what do you get you get tongfu you get banks at the gun you get blahblah you get all of these incredible incredible bursts of momentum to make an event happen whether it's poetry but at the same time it shoots itself in the foot by deciding who is best and who is not firing audience now I know that those places that I mentioned banks at the gun & tongfu actually do great stuff for poetry for people to get on stage aside from slam but my contention is this they would have been there anyway what is the first thing of how it does when they've done a slam stop doing slams a slam is they're primarily for the organization that's holding the slam and a gig should always be there primarily because they want to put on the poets so this has been a very tricky narrative for me to communicate because at the same time a slam poetry happening I'm realizing oh I'm and the older generation now and this is the younger generation so when I saw Brian Patten I said to him Brian like what is happening because this thing is happening and they don't know about the Caribbean poets that came before the laid the ground and did you know etc etc and and I realized and what you said he said they're just they're just cleaning out the rabbit torch limb and I thought wow what a beautiful thing because what is happening with the slam poetry generation is what happened with the sixties generation that's what Brian Patton did as the Liverpool poet in 1967 you know that's what Michael Horovitz did at the blonde and actually they done throughout their career you know they clean up a biatch and so I've always felt to take it with a pinch of salt because I am getting old and and and the same thing happens and that is that whether it's slam poetry whether it's beat poetry whether it's jazz poetry you get these poets of every generation whether it's Punk poetry attila the stockbroker and various other jewels you get these poets who regardless regardless just shoot up like fireworks and then just just spread light in the middle of the air and from that light new shoots grow new shoots growing issues grow you know kate tempest you know luke right all of them all of them spread light and that light shines on people who want to do it as well you don't have to be successful as a poet poetry can serve you through your teens it can serve you through your divorce it can serve you through your depression you can get up on stage and and apples and snakes gig as a depressed human being and feel a sense of self a sense of bridge between one time and another and that's okay if poetry if that's all they did that's you know that's as good as me having a full lifetime career in poetry as good as that poetry is now powerful and I sometimes think that the judging of a poem out of ten reduces what it is creative

9 thoughts on “Lemn Sissay on Slam Poetry | Spoken Word Archive

  1. In all sense : Lemn. Everything is becoming denial of the majority based on false and selfish interest. But not the benefit of the majority.

  2. This was an amazing video. I loved the fact that he broke it down like this. And I am indeed defined by what I am for.

  3. Thank you for this. Yes to being defined by what we are for not what we do. Lemn is such a legend.

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