Finding the Singer Within
Poets are priests of the invisible…While music is based on the passage of time; poetry is based on the stoppage of time…Poetry performance is not for the poet, it’s for the audience, so approach it as an act of generosity. ~ Keith Flynn
If you weren’t there, you really missed it! The Coffee Shack was shaking and vibing with the effusive poetic renderings of Keith Flynn last Friday night during the Open Mic after his workshop, “Finding the Singer Within.” Flynn wowed us with his in-depth knowledge of poetry, poetry performance, and his generosity through sharing his personal preparation techniques.
The workshop organizer, Poet Malaika King Albrecht exclaims, “Keith is the quintessential poet, bringing both performance and well-crafted poems together in ways that thrill any audience. His teaching skills are likewise a brew only Keith could make. She began the workshop by alerting us that Keith Flynn would most likely “outperform our expectations” and “lift us out of our seats,” and she was right. We were graced with his unique blend of song and poetic musicality that was both instructive and entertaining. According to one review on the jacket of his newest book, Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press 2013), it lives up to “Keith’s reputation as a ‘seminal force in poetry…a voice for the dispossessed with rock-gospel charisma and riddle-like revelations’” (Choice). After the Flynn’s dynamic workshop, both experienced and newbie poets were indeed fired up by his humorous anecdotes and contagious energy.
Flynn, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and the receiver of many prestigious awards, provided an informative overview of the historical, structural, and philosophical connections between music and poetry ranging from slave songs, Bob Dylan, and beyond. Drawing parallels between movements in art, literature, and music, Flynn stressed that the goal in all areas is to affect the human spirit. This author of The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz, and Memory (2007) points out that by observing musicians, we can become better poets. He asserts that establishing a rhythm creates a more effectual reading and insists that poems should have an invisible shape that can be “seen” when poets read. He shared his perspective on three areas that are also included in The Rhythm Method chapters: Learning to listen, Learning to Observe, and Learning to Speak.
At one point, workshop participants were prompted to confess the names of their favorite musical performers. Flynn easily dissected the participant’s expressed connection to their choices, revealed why we they may have been were drawn to them, and how that realization could help them to discover their voice. He stressed that poets must read what has come before, assimilate to the body politic, but find their own distinctive voices. According to Flynn, “poetry is sacred” and it is “what the world wants when it is broken-hearted.”
I won’t attempt to go over all that he shared with us in the workshop. Hopefully, you will try to catch his next one. (He may be back sometime in September.) But here are few tidbits from my notes…
On Writing and Performance
The act of making poetry is an act of love. Reach for the ideal. Poetry reading should be theater, a performance. Timing and rhythm is everything. Learn to use silence. Tell your unique story as interestingly as possible. Avoid clichés. Enter in action; leave it in motion. Learn to love the sound of your own voice. Enunciate and elucidate. Eliminate the unnecessary. Be in love… with the sounds of the words. Practice, Practice, Practice… Creating poetry should be an unerring need not narcissism. Let each word carry its own wait. Fill the spotlight; be large and in charge.
About Your Audience
Respect them. Don’t waste their time. Test the microphone before you perform. Adjust your performance to your audience. Be prepared with a variety of pieces. Use appropriate humor to engage or re-engage your audience. Don’t use your audience as your guinea pigs. Practice, Practice, Practice! Never apologize (about your poetry). Don’t be a time hog; stay within your prescribed time.
You may find out more about Keith Flynn’s workshops and contact him through his website: http://keithflynn.net/
Look over his 2013 itinerary: http://keithflynn.net/itinerary/
Acquire or learn about his publication (He is the founder/editor), the Asheville Poetry Review: http://www.ashevillepoetryreview.com/
Photo Gallery (More to come)
COMING SOON Greensboro – Save the Date! Keith Flynn (womenwritersofthetriad.wordpress.com