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Archive for July, 2010

“For me, St. John’s has two realities. At one level there is the real city around me, filled with the trivial activities of life and work. Then there is the other city, the city of our songs, the weird place I grew up, this strange and colourful place at the edge of the world, the city of my dreams.”–Bob Hallett, singer/musician, talking about his home town of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Posted on 2/03/10 in his blog,  Bob’s Journeys (scroll to the bottom)

I really like Bob’s quote and wanted to share it here on my blog because it perfectly sums up the way I feel about my own home town of Hobbiton.

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It wasn’t that I didn’t know that slam poetry existed, but I had no idea of how awesome it was until I searched the term on YouTube and came up with fabulous video after fabulous video. Basically, slam, spoken word or performance poetry as it is various known, is a dramatic monologue by the poet. Performance poetry can be funny or sad, it can be like storytelling or like rap, it can include song or music, and it can be personal or general.
I’ve pulled out a few of my favorites to share with you.

To start us off, here’s Peter Sellars kickin’ it old school with his spoken rendition of a “Hard Day’s Night”.

If you’re wondering why’s he dressed in Tudor costume, Sellars is doing a spot-on impersonation of Laurence Olivier as Richard III.

Taylor Mali, former English teacher turned performance poet, is up next with his “I’ll Fight You for the Library”.

Taylor is one of my favorites and has done a number of pieces that I like. “What Teachers Make” is  one of his most popular poems, but I opted to feature the above one because I think it speaks to the bureaucratic frustrations that both teachers and librarians experience.

A different poet named Taylor–sixteen-year-old Taylor Phillips–follows with her poem, “Well, Thank You”, written for the 2009 Slam Poetry recital at the Missouri Scholars Academy.

I think she rocks! Performance poetry–not just for angsty hipsters in black berets anymore.

Mary Fons is a powerful performer. Her poems tend to be a mix of humor and pathos which is a difficult combination to make work.  From her 2006 show at the Gift Theatre in Chicago, here’s her poem “I Am So Young.”

Corbet Dean is a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a video of him performing at the 2002 Poetry Slam in Mesa, Arizona. This performance and a number of others are on his 2005 DVD, “A Collection of Crime Scenes”.  I defy anyone to watch his performance and not cry their eyes out.

Finally, to cheer us up a bit, here’s Ivan Coyote talking about the things she learned from her father at the 2009 Vancouver Poetry Slam.  Ivan is a working class gal from Whitehorse, Y.T. and I really like her dry sense of humor and understated style.

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Into the cereal bowl that is the library, a few Fruit Loops must inevitably drop. Don’t get me wrong. Nine out of ten patrons to our library are delightful people. The tenth ones, however, tend to be very, very memorable.

Today, there was a young man in who was researching a fairly obscure regional radio host. This gent–let’s call him “Bob Jones”–was a storyteller who had pressed a number of records back in the 1950s. As far as I know, his works never circulated outside of Arnor and we are the only library that has copies of his actual recordings.

As he was returning the recordings, the young man–let’s just call him “Con”, shall we?–and I got to talking about what a shame it was that Mr. Jones had no living relatives and how his quirky recordings are now orphaned works.

How, Con wanted to know, did the library determine who was a legitimate family member? I pointed out that we usually just took people’s word that they were who they said they were. Most of the narrators in our collection are completely unknown or are not well know outside of Arnor. There’s no monetary or other ill-gotten gain to be had by posing as a narrator’s relative. At best, potential faux family members would only be saving themselves some very minimal copying costs.

Con then proceeded to tell me that he was a guy who had no problems lying to other people, particularly “faceless authority figures like you” and how he could readily see a scenario in which he brought in a stranger and had them pose as a member of Mr. Jones’s family.

I pointed out a) the university’s lawyers wouldn’ t like that and b) I would be keeping that “no problem lying to faceless authority figures” part of conversation in mind should he darken our door again.

What this guy thought he would be gaining by scamming the library, I don’t know, but bitter experience has taught me that when people tell you to your face that they are out to do you over, they usually mean it. So, I would like to apologize in advance to any legitimate Jones family members who might be contacting us in the future: please understand when we view your claim with some suspicion.

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“Who played Batman when Jack Nicholson was the Joker?”–Student Worker #1

“Kevin Costner?”–Student Worker #2

“No, that was ‘Dances With Bats'”.–Me

Yes, the library is never short on stimulating cultural discussions about the arts. And if you believe that one, I’ve got a Bat Cave to sell you …..

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