Literary Arts: Chuck Taylor on poetry & Chad Scott on Mic Check and Poetry Slams

Digital Arts: 10th Annual Red Wasp Film Festival
August 31, 2012
Culinary Arts: The gourmet food truck movement has rolled into town
August 31, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Arts

Stories by Allison Kendall / Photos by Crystal Littrell & JP Beato III

Chuck Taylor is a poet and professor at Texas A&M University. He has written memoirs and novels but is best known for books of poetry including The One True Cat, Like Li-Po Laughing at the Lonely Moon, and his newest work, At the Heart. In a calm and mellifluous voice, he explains the origins of poetry.

Does poetry struggle with popularity? Taylor says he always asks his students to name one popular musician from 100 years ago. They can not. However, Taylor notes they are familiar with Homer and Shakespeare.“Poetry lasts a long time but doesn’t have huge NOW popularity…I’m not sure why. Maybe this is changing gradually with the electronic media that can preserve a whole performance. There's a lot of poetry on YouTube.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Arts

Stories by Allison Kendall / Photos by Crystal Littrell & JP Beato III

Chuck Taylor is a poet and professor at Texas A&M University. He has written memoirs and novels but is best known for books of poetry including The One True Cat, Like Li-Po Laughing at the Lonely Moon, and his newest work, At the Heart. In a calm and mellifluous voice, he explains the origins of poetry.

Does poetry struggle with popularity? Taylor says he always asks his students to name one popular musician from 100 years ago. They can not. However, Taylor notes they are familiar with Homer and Shakespeare.“Poetry lasts a long time but doesn’t have huge NOW popularity…I’m not sure why. Maybe this is changing gradually with the electronic media that can preserve a whole performance. There’s a lot of poetry on YouTube.” 

How has poetry evolved? 

“Poetry began as an oral art form going at least as far back as 2000 BC to Homer with his epic poems that he recited by memory. With all of the new technology, there has been a movement toward the oral again. iPods, CD books on tape for the car…more people listen to poetry out loud today than they read it in books.”

How does poetry reach out to individuals?

“Poetry is a good place for individuals, especially young people, to express their feelings. With hormones raging during youth, ‘feelings’ are rampant and powerful. Love, hate, relationships, breakups – poetry features all of these. It’s about your inner feelings and being honest, but those feelings are there too with adults in the worlds of work and family, but many adults are so busy working and raising families they must shut out or ignore much of their meditations and feelings. Here poetry serves a wonderful function. It allows people to go to poetry events, electronic media, or books and reconnect with their emotions, thoughts, and frustrations.” 

How do we connect with poetry on a daily basis? 

According to Taylor, poetry evolves and changes through time just as any art form does. In the music world, the popular tunes of Nat King Cole are much different from those of Kanye West. But one thing about poetry has remained the same: it’s described as heightened speech. It has rhythm. It often has rhyme, alliteration and repetition. While we’ve all learned about the different devices in our English courses, many of us fail to recognize poetry outside a classroom. “A lot of people who go to church and listen to ministers acquire these out loud techniques without even realizing.” Poetry is half sung and half spoken says the professor, demonstrating as he half sings, half speaks Dr. King’s “I have a dream…” speech.

What can you tell us about poetry slam competitions? 

Taylor says when they first began in Chicago the purpose was to make poetry more exciting, since before there hadn’t been competition. Poetry slams gave poetry a kick with an added sports-like element. “I keep asking myself – is this sports or is it art?” says Taylor. Those who are a little stage shy shouldn’t worry, though: the poetry slams at Mic Check keep it friendly and positive. Even with the competitive factor the art stays in the performance. “Those ‘slammers’ really come up with great lines,” says Taylor. “They are amazing.”

How is the poetry scene in Bryan/College Station? 

Taylor notes there is much more writing going on than people realize with creative writing professors conducting research at the university and doing novels, essays, and poems, with the Brazos Writers group, and of course, with Mic Check in Downtown Bryan. Mic Check offers unfamiliar individuals a taste of the art of poetry, and he notes that it is well attended. Taylor was involved at its beginning through Jeff Stumpo, Mic Check’s creator, who was Taylor’s student at Texas A&M University. “I think a lot of people have a secret performer in them,” says Taylor. “There’s a thrill to get up in front of the crowd and share something, feel the energy off an audience. Everybody has a great poem in them. Every individual has been through some unique experience that only they can convey. It just may take awhile for them to come up with the words.” 

Chuck Taylor’s latest book of poetry, “At the Heart,” may be ordered online or through a local bookstore. Paste into your browser the following website addresses to either view Chuck Taylor’s photographs or to learn more about Slough Press:

http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/Chuck+Taylor/all

http://www.redbubble.com/people/geezerpoet/art?page=4 

http://sloughpressbooks.googlepages.com/home 

http://www.rheagart.bravehost.com/SloughPressBooks.htm

Chad Scott, Amir Safi and Bill Moran

Mic Check

Chad Scott explains the art of slam poetry and Mic Check.   

What exactly is a poetry slam?

Chad explains that slam poetry is a hybrid art form of the spoken word, performance, and competition. Competing poets do much more than read poetry from a page; they’re also performing – using nonverbal language – which helps to give life to, and sometimes change the meaning and understanding, of words.

Slam poetry tends to blur the line between audience and performer. Chad says that the audience is very interactive during each performance – snapping, clapping, or even standing up and cheering during an admired presentation. The audience’s reaction can help to persuade the judges’ score. “Poetry slams are high energy events,” says Chad, “we’re more about building an environment where people are comfortable enough to share. I think that’s why a lot of people want to come visit us.”

What is Mic Check?

 “There are two components of Mic Check. First, we are a community of poets. Second, we are a community organization that is trying to give back to the community through the arts.” The organization gathers every Sunday night and hoards of people show up to read, perform, and critique poetry.

How has Mic Check, along with poetry, grown in the community over the last several years?

When co-founders Amir Safi and Chris Call began working with Mic Check, there were only a few people attending weekly events. “Filling up the poetry performance list used to be challenging,” says Scott. Now, Mic Check events have a weekly attendance ranging between 60-100 people. “More and more people have been coming who are either wanting to begin writing poetry, or who have already been writing poetry but haven’t gathered the courage to share it.”

How has Mic Check connected with the community?

To make Mic Check more of a community organization co-founders Amir and Chris made it into a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. The idea of making Mic Check a non-profit was to utilize the arts to give back to the community. According to Scott, Mic Check began to assist organizations by hosting charity events at their Revolution Café venue. “People want to get involved, but often they do not know where to begin. We provide the framework to do so.”

Mic Check has partnered with organizations including Brazos Valley Food Bank and Phoebe’s Home, a battered women’s shelter. “Due to the graciousness of Rola Cerone, Revolution Café is pretty much our home.” Charity events are held during regular Sunday night Mic Checks. Word of mouth and Facebook marketing draw impressive crowds of up to 100 attendees.

What makes Mic Check special?

“Hearing people share their experiences on stage is an uplifting experience that often motivates people to want to get up on stage themselves.” Themes include politics, relationships, and, yes, breakups. “It blurs the line between the audience and the performer because anyone in the audience can become a performer whenever they want.” Attend Mic Check and you may end up presenting on stage in front of the live audience. 

Mic check provides an environment for writers to share their poetry, and poetry competitions – called Poetry Slams – are held once a month. “We write, perform, and critique,” says Chad, “we want to introduce more people to poetry.” Mic Check has an open stage where anyone from seasoned poets to first timers may get up and perform. But that’s not all Mic Check does. In addition, writing workshops are held that are free to the public. More details can be found on the Mic Check Facebook page and website, http://miccheckpoetry.com.

What do Mic Check and poetry in general offer to the community?

“We are interested in raising the visibility of the arts in Bryan/College Station. This includes raising the visibility of Mic Check as a slam poetry venue within the national slam poetry scene.”

Attend Mic Check every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan. Poetry slams are every second Sunday of the month.