Managed to grab a front row seat with my buddy Brian for readings by poets Christopher Taylor and Steve Thompson at Planet Earth Poetry (Black Stilt Cafe on Hillside Ave.) Friday evening. The latter is a member of the Tongues of Fire poetry collective which appears at the Solstice Cafe every second Thursday - half a dozen young, fired-up wordsmiths whose poems are reminiscent of the beats, Kerouac and Ginsberg, and who, like their predecessors, stress the importance of reading well in public. I have to confess when I first sat down to hear them I expected the gothic look and poems comprised largely of self-loathing and a contempt for anyone over thirty. Seems the only prejudices at work were my own. The group treated us to a rich collection of powerfully delivered poems and displayed enormous respect for the open stage poets who preceded them, for each other and for their audience.
That said, Thompson stirred up a lot of controversy at the national poetry slam competitions in Halifax last month when he delivered a poem about schoolyard racism, displaying the same candour around language that got Lenny Bruce into so much trouble years ago. You can get a taste of Thompson and his co-conspirators’ style at http://tonguesoffire.ca/, though, alas, that particular poem has yet to be posted. I did speak briefly with a few of his colleagues, however, about the origins of their poems. Out of that emerged a question about the study of meter and whether it plays or should play a role in the practice of poetry. Hard to go into too much detail in a crowded café but we seemed to agree that some knowledge of stress, duration, syntax etc could help a poet bring some control to the writing of poems. I hasten to add that I am not a poet, but have an interest in understanding why some poems work well and others don't. My education proceeds apace.