Sunday, November 4, 2007

JUSTIN SPRING: MULTI-DIMEMSIONAL POET

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IF YOU'RE NEW
TO SOULSPEAK,
YOU MAY WANT TO
CHECK OUT

ABOUT SOULSPEAK













My Video Dreamstories represent a revolutionary approach to video poetry. 

Click here to  take a look for yourself. 

Click here for my thinking on Dreamstories.






                   

A NEW NOVEL

RIVER MOTHER:
The Face of the Sphinx






For those interested in the mystery of the Great Sphinx of Giza, I have a new site THE SPHINX: WHEN WAS IT BUILT AND WHY


I also have a new, related novel called RIVER MOTHER: The Face of the Sphinx, which is the story of the female Nubian shaman who became the face of the Sphinx during the Mother Goddess period c. 6000 B.C. Click on the title above to download a free PDF.




A NEW POETRY BOOK

COLLECTED POEMS- 1985-2014


For a free PDF click here.  













 SOURCES OF BOOKS 
BY JUSTIN SPRING:
These are sources of all my published books.
Only electronic versions are currently available


Amazon kindle E-Books run $2.95-5.95.



Free-eBooks: Justin Spring Prose and Poetry  (PDF, EPUB, Kindle, TXT) 
Free eBooks books are always free and offer many formats. 
You have to sign in first before you download.



SPT PRESS offers  offers instantaneous free PDFs  ( no sign in) as well as  longer, more detailed previews, including the ability to preview a book in its  entirety





ABOUT ME





I am a prize-winning poet, novelist, writer, and video artist as well as the founder of SOULSPEAK, a poetry/arts organization dedicated to bringing poetry back into the everyday lives of everyday people.

My written poetry has been published in such distinguished periodicals as American Poetry Review as well as in numerous anthologies.

I am one of a handful of poets who work not only in the written mode of composition but also in the ancient mode
of spontaneous oral composition, as well as a new, revolutionary video form I call Dreamstories.




I also compose music from time to time using Garage Band which I use on my Dreamstory soundtracks. To start the music click on play on the SOUNDCLICK player below.




 
I also have a personal web radio program, "The JUSTIN SPRING Radio Show" on SPREAKER .



Click PLAY on the SPREAKER Player above to select and hear the displayed program. 


If you click on the 3 BARS in the Player, it will show you the various tracks you can hear.

You can also download all SPREAKER programs as MP3 Podcasts.





Here is a recent, very good interview of me (Dec/2011) by poet Blake More on Ladybug Radio. To hear it, click here.

A more detailed list of my work and the prizes and honors I have received can be found further on in this site.







HERE IS 
A VIDEO AND AUDIO SELECTION OF 
MY ORAL POETRY
(SOULSPEAK):





MP3s OF MY  SOULSPEAK POEMS ON THE SOUNDCLICK PLAYER CAN BE DOWNLOADED BY CLICKING HERE:
 MANY VOICES OF SOULSPEAK










You can alsohear selections from my
SOULSPEAK CDs.
Click on album title for free Play/ Download



WITNESSES LOG 
IN YOUR MIND
 OPRAH
BARBEQUE


SPEAKINGS




OTHER FREE SOULSPEAK STUDIO PROGRAMS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU:



WHITEY VINOY'S UNBELIEVABLE STORIES ABOUT BARBEQUE AND CREATIVITY.





HERE IS A BROADCAST WITH MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BBQ SERIES




GET FREE IPOD (MP3) DOWNLOADS BY CLICKING THE BBQ STORY YOU WANT:










FOR A VIDEO SAMPLE OF RAY BBQ, HIT PLAY ON THE YOUTUBE PLAYER BELOW.






MY BROADCAST STATIONS


NEW !!

Radio / Video SOULSPEAK


My Best Video Dreamstories  
Mixed With Eclectic Music Videos.

Watch it or Listen To It. 

Free Audio or Video Downloads of Everything











Other SOULSPEAK Broadcast Stations





VIDEO SOULSPEAK 
For Free, Instant Playing and Download 
of  over 200Dreamstories.











For Free Broadcast of SOULSPEAK Poetry and Music 
on Live / 365. This station ends  in January 2015











The Best of Many Voices of SOULSPEAK
















A SELECTION OF MY WRITTEN POETRY

Click on book title beneath cover for free download

PRIZE WINNER
PRIZE WINNER

FINALIST WALT WHITMAN NATIONAL CONTEST

PRIZE WINNER




A DIFFERENT SARASOTA

LOVE, BIRTH DEATH, MARRIAGE

















A SELECTION OF MY PROSE:
Click on Titles for Free PDF



MIRRORS:

A MEMOIR OF THE POETRY OF 
ABORIGINE POET ELDRED VAN-OOY
 









A JOURNEY INTO THE NATURE OF ORAL POETRY 
AND ITS PRELITERATE ORIGINS








Alice Hickey: Between Worlds 

A MEMOIR OF A SEVEN YEAR JOURNEY INTO THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS, THE MOTHER GODDESS CULTURES AND THE PSYCHIC, PRELITERATE ROOTS OF POETRY.















 



HERE ARE SOME NEW THINGS I'M DOING:

SOULCARDS


I produced these poetic postcards for my own use, but found them so popular among poetry and art lovers that I now offer them to others.

They are LARGE (8.5" x 4.5") beautifully crafted, glossy cards that fit those occasions when you want to say something unusual to a soul mate.

click on pictures to see actual size.



 




































They come in sets of six (6) either mixed or single type. The cost for a set of 6 is only $6, which includes tax, postage and handling


Mail order to: SOULSPEAK PO 5932 Sarasota FL 34277 with check made out to JMS/SOULSPEAK specifying which type of card and number of each type desired.

Here are the NAMES of the types of cards:



BODY






WAFER





HOUSE






VERMEER




DREAM





START






 




I'M ALSO INVESTIGATING THE ACCURACY OF ALTERNATIVE WORLD VIEWS



I am a fan of alternative world views (alien abductions, psychic healing, Atlantis, etc) but am dismayed how uninformed many proponents are of the nature of the preliterate sources they are using as stone cold facts to support their theories.





I'm also dismayed how ignorant some proponents are of the power of the unconscious mind to project visions into this world, preferring to see events such as alien abductions as coming from outer space.I have started a new blog to supply what I see as necessary corrections to much of the thinking that is going around


 






 


Here is a sample of some of the videos contained in the blog:












I'M GOING BACK TO THE GALAPAGOS OF POETRY


Here is my unique VIDEO series on the preliterate origins of poetry. If you want to know why poetry has the characteristics it does, and what really separates it from prose and everything else, check out the PLAYER below on the PSYCHIC, UNCONSCIOUS ROOTS OF POETRY.





LIKE TO EAT?

I'VE ALSO CREATED VIDEO REVIEWS OF THE GUARANTEED BEST PLACES TO EAT CHEAPLY IN SARASOTA, MIAMI, KEYS AND MEXICO

I am a big fan of family owned restaurants that serve great food at good prices and who see their restaurants not only as a way of making a living but also as a way of sharing the things they love.


I have compiled a series of video reviews of these restaurants in
1.The Sarasota, St. Pete, Venice Florida area
2. Miami, The Keys, Boca Raton and Daytona
3. Alamos, Merida, Cozumel  Mexico.

These are places where I love to eat and have never had a bad meal. If you visit any of these cities, check this link out:
GOOD PLACES TO EAT





HERE ARE SOME OTHER NEW SOULSPEAK PROGRAMS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU:

VIDEO LIFE PORTRAITS











The Gift of a Lifetime For Your Children's Children


What better gift for your grandchildren who love you but may know little about your life, hopes, and loves ?

VIDEO LIFE PORTRAITS ARE VIDEO BIOGRAPHIES I MAKE IN COLLABORATION WITH INDIVIDUALS WISHING TO LEAVE INTIMATE EMOTIONAL PORTRAITS FOR FUTURE FAMILY GENERATIONS.






The various styles represent unique ways of portraying who you really are. You choose which one. Prices are very reasonable. For previews of the four styles of Video Life Portraits, click on Player below:.






Your personal photos, videos, thoughts and surroundings will be integrated into your Video Life Portrait.



Here is a short comment by Jane Alexander on her Video Life Portrait: "The video Justin did of my life and home was exactly what I wanted for my grandchildren. He has a poet's magical touch."







END VIDEO LIFE PORTRAITS



MORE STUFF


A NEW VIDEO SERIES on 
How To Create Better, More Moving Poems 

This series uses the SOULSPEAK method, which unlocks our inborn ability to create better narrative poems by quieting the conscious mind so that the poem can form itself automatically.













A UNIQUELY VIDEO SERIES:









REALLY FUNNY VIDEOS

Some new and very funny, quirky celebrity spoofs: JOAN ALAMOS: MEXICAN MOVIE STAR FAMOSA.







SOULSPEAK MOTHER GOOSE. Animated Nursery Rhymes 

for Creative, Artistic Children, ages 2-6.








THE REAL SKINNY ON "ALICE HICKEY: BETWEEN WORLDS".

CLICK HERE TO SEE A CHATTY VIDEO SERIES ON THE CHARACTERS, PLACES AND THEMES OF MY PRIZE-WINNING NOVEL, ALICE HICKEY. I MADE THE VIDEOS TO EMPHASIZE  THAT THE NOVEL IS REALLY A LIGHTLY FICTIONALIZED MEMOIR (2000-2007) OF MY TRAVELS WITH PSYCHIC ALICE HICKEY THROUGH FLORIDA, CALIFORNIA, ARIZONA, MEXICO AND PANAMA TRYING TO UNRAVEL A SERIES OF PSYCHIC EVENTS THAT OVERWHELMED ME IN 2000-2001.









TWO EXAMPLES OF MY SOULPRINTS












JUSTIN SPRING: 
HEALING PROGRAMS,
BIOGRAPHY and ESSAYS


SOULSPEAK HEALING PROGRAMS

SOULSPEAK GRIEF SUPPORT VIDEOS
 

An Application of SOULSPEAK Oral Poetry to the Grieving Process








An Application of SOULSPEAK Oral Poetry to the Mother/Child Bonding



BIOGRAPHY: About Justin Spring



I was educated at Columbia College. I am a prize-winning poet, novelist and video artist as well as the founder of SOULSPEAK, an organization dedicated to bringing poetry and art back into the everyday lives of everyday people. My written poetry has been published in such distinguished periodicals as American Poetry Review as well as in numerous anthologies. 

I am one of a handful of poets who work not only in the written mode of composition but also in a contemporary version of  preliterate  multi-voiced oral poetry I call SOULSPEAK, and a new,  revolutionary form of audio/visual poetry I call DREAMSTORIES.

My work in the oral and audio/visual area is pioneering and I am considered by some to be the father of contemporary oral poetry. For those interested in this aspect of my work, the book below is available for free PDF downloading.


 SOULSPEAK: The Outward Journey of the Soul









PRIZES AND HONORS


Among the recent poetry prizes and honors I have received are:

The 1997 State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship Finalist 1994, 1997 Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman National Prize Contest )for my written poetry.

The 1993 Homer Award for Spoken Poetry, Tampa Bay Poetry Council; the 1995 Hall of Fame Award, Poetica for my oral poetry.




The 2003 Images and Voices of Hope Award; 2003 Point of Life Award for Excellence for my therapeutic poetry programs.

The 2005 John Ringling Individual Artist Fellowship, the 2006 State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship and the 2006 State of Florida Individual Artist Enhancement award for my work in audio/visual poetry.

The 2009 Ringling Towers Literary Award for my novel ALICE HICKEY..

The Ringling 2009 "Ageless Creativity" award for my lifelong contributions to poetry.

Other Poetry Grants and Honors. Finalist, 1987 State St. Contest (Donald Justice, Judge); First Prize, 1987 Published Poet, U of Florida Sigma Tau Delta; Finalist, 1989 FCCJ National Poetry Contest (Phillip Levine, Judge); Commendation, 1989 Chester H. Jones Foundation; Honorable Mention, 1995 Billie Murray Denny National Poetry Contest; Finalist, 1995 Carnegie-Mellon Poetry Series; First Prize, 1995 White Eagle Coffee Store Press Chapbook Contest; Finalist, 1995 Akron Poetry Prize, Honorable Mention, 1996 Chester H. Jones National Poetry Competition; Finalist, 1996 Akron Poetry Prize, Finalist, 1997 Walt Whitman National Contest (Academy of American Poets); Honorable Mention, 1997 Chester H. Jones National Poetry Competition; Third Place, 1997 Billie Murray Denny National Poetry Contest; Honorable Mention, 1997 Akron Poetry Prize; Winner, State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, 1998; First Place, 1998 Chester H. Jones National Poetry Competition; Finalist, Akron Poetry Prize; Honorable Mention, 1999 Billie Murray Denny National Poetry Contest.;

Grants received for therapeutic poetry programs directed by me for SOULSPEAK/Sarasota Poetry Theatre, Inc. from: Bates Foundation; Beattie Foundation; Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice; Kates Foundation; Knight Foundation; Bank of America; Sarasota County Foundation; Sarasota County Tourist Development Council; Selby Foundation; Selby Partnership; Southwest Florida Community Foundation; State of Florida Interdisciplinary; State of Florida Arts in Education; VSA Arts; Woman’s Exchange; Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice.

I am the author of Six collections of written poetry: Polaroid Poems, Other Dancers, Talkies, Nursery Raps,  Poems for Family and Friends, Poems of Sarasota and Florida. Free downloads of all of these books are available at Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press

I am also the author of four prose works: MIRRORS: The Aborigine Poetry of Eldred Van-ooy,  SOULSPEAK: The Outward Journey of the Soul, and ALICE HICKEY: Between Worlds, and RIVER MOTHER: The Face of the Sphinx   
Free downloads are available at Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press

In my role as lead poet and director of the  multi-voiced performance-poetry group, Many Voices of SOULSPEAK, I have has also recorded seven (8 CDs  of oral poetry: Gathering, Smoke, Nursery Raps, Speakings, In Your Mind,  I’m Talking to You Oprah, Witnesses Log, and Barbeque. Free downloads of Speakings, In Your Mind, and  I’m Talking to You Oprah are available at SOUNDCLICK:


My videos range from documentaries on poetry to groundbreaking art videos that combine oral, written and musical poetry in a new video form I call Dreamstories.. Among the nearly 200 documentaries and Dreamstories are : Spirit of Life Speaking Across the Generations, SOULMASK, and Soul Exposures, Poetry in Three Dimensions, More Poetry in Three Dimensions, A Different Mexico, Painters and Poetry Paint Poetry, Fractal Poetry, and The Witnesses Log, Audio/Visual Poems, Soul Journeys 2004-2005.



A






 

The video shows Mr Spring's spontaneously created oral poetry, a poetry he calls SOULSPEAK. The three essays below reference SOULSPEAK, so these examples will assist in understanding the essays. SOULSPEAK is a contemporary version of preliterate oral poetry.





SPEAKING POETRY


If someone had put a pistol to my head seven or eight years ago and asked me to define my poetry ("Very briefly and accurately, Mr. Spring."), I’d like to think I would have popped back: "It is a highly visual poetry of common but highly angled images; in short, it is a poetry of attitude." Whether that would have done the job or not, I don’t know, as everyone is in such a hurry these days, especially your stick-up artists.

But whether it was the pressure of the imagined handgun or merely a poet’s general ignorance of what he is doing at the time he is doing it, it seems to me now that something else was lurking beneath my work’s imagistic surface: a phrasing and idiom that reflected everyday speech. Not that I was completely unaware of those qualities. I had always admired the way Frost ran a rural idiom against the iambic to produce his remarkably rich music, but I wasn’t even slightly aware at the time that my own urge towards a speech-like diction would eventually drive me to create a truly oral poetry, a poetry created by speaking, not writing.



And yet despite the speech-like diction of my written poems at the time, I didn’t see it as speech, real speech. It just looked like speech, somewhat in the way Hemingway’s prose speech does, and that was good enough for me at the time. But when I attempted to speak the poems out at readings, they felt stilted enough to really bother me. Why don’t they sound like speech? I kept asking myself. The answer to my dilemma, I discovered later, was that my poems sounded false because they had been created by the act of writing, not by the act of speaking; and because of this, when I spoke them out, I was also being false, because I was, in some slight way, speaking at people, not to them; because what I was doing was reading a written document out loud to an audience, which is a different kettle of fish from speaking to them in a truly intimate way. It can be close, but it is never quite there; and both parties know it, especially those who are listening. So I had two choices: continue to commit a lie, and by doing so, dishonoring both myself and my listeners in a very essential way; or begin moving toward a poetry that would allow me to speak to my listeners in a way that would allow me to honor both them and myself, a way that would create a communion between us in the most real, immediate and intimate way possible.



What this meant, of course, although I didn’t know it at the time, was that I would have to eventually change to a poetry that was conceived by speaking it, not writing it. That change happened quite unexpectedly one night when, for some reason, I began to speak out a poem as it came to me; and as I did, it became clear to me that the poem will sound real to the listener if you speak as it comes to you. It is as simple as that. So that if someone were to put a gun to my head now with that same demand for an immediate description, I’d like to think I’d pop back: "My poetry is one that wants to be spoken, much as music wants to be played."



So, in retrospect, the answer to how to create a spoken poetry was right in front of me all the time: all I had to do was simply speak it out. And although this seems obvious to me now, it wasn’t that obvious at the time. Because for me (as for most poets) speaking out a poem was simply unthinkable: a poem has to be written out: that is its medium of creation. Period. But I was wrong. It’s only one medium of creation; and one that doesn’t really create a poetry that wants to be spoken. But oral poetry does, because the act of speaking endows it with unique properties, just as the act of writing creates a poetry with unique properties.



One of those properties is that oral poetry has the unique immediacy and directness and command that only real speech has. We never tune out real speech, that speaking off the tops of our heads we do all day, because it has that "I to YOU" quality of one human being touching another, no matter how loving or cruel or boring the message itself. It is the common gossip and gabble that make up the ever- flowing undercurrents of the sea of speech, the true, unpremeditated speech that gets to us every time and sticks with us whether we like it or not; and that is the speech, or more correctly, the helix of speech that oral poetry forms itself around.



So just how do you go about making a spoken poetry? Can you just start to speak it out? The answer, of course, is Yes and No. Yes, you can achieve a spoken poetry by speaking it out, but No because it won’t last or be worth anything unless there’s also an inner desire to speak to others publicly and openly. But how does one unlearn writing? One way, and the only way I know, is simply to obey your impulses.



In my own case, music brought it about as I tried to collaborate with an improvisational trumpet player. Unlike the guitar or keyboard, the trumpet simply refuses to yield any ground to poetry in performance. Trying to sustain whatever poetic rhythm and theme exist in a written poem in the face of that kind of power results in a deadlock. The whole enterprise limps along discordantly or grinds to a frustrating halt. At least that is what happened to me, and this with a poem that I had written especially for collaboration with brass. Only something banal scribbled out on paper by the trumpet player saved the day, because as soon as I tried his words, I knew the solution in my bones: play a duet of riffs. In effect, I had to become a trumpet. The rest is still vivid in my mind because the next night, as the poem began to form itself, I began speaking it out loud. I haven’t written any poems since that moment. I became an instant convert to spoken poetry.



As a first step toward creating a spoken poetry, I would ask you to imagine you are composing a poem that must exist in riffs in order to coexist successfully with an imagined trumpet. Then locate a repeated phrase that can take any form: I want, I need, Think about, I love, I don’t want, I have a dream, etc., as long as it’s in the form of I to YOU/first person, because that’ the way we speak. What happens after that depends on your willingness to completely unconscious as to what you are saying so as to let your natural speech mechanisms take over and handle the surge of the poem. Once that is accomplished, and I can assure you it is the simplest of tasks if you just let go of writing, the next step is never, never write the poem down unless it is absolutely finished. This applies to long as well as short poems. Thematic memory will handle that just as it enables us to retell stories and jokes. After all if it was good enough for Homer, it’s good enough for us.



I should say something about what spoken poetry sounds like without refrains, and what it sounds like is a story, i.e., a narrative-driven poem, because that is the nature of speech. Although this may put some people off who think narrative belongs only in prose, it is really the way we communicate everyday. Though stories. Endless stories. Think about it.



It should not surprise you if the ground feels a bit weak when you first step on it to make a non-refrain poem, as in addition to speaking out loud, many of the normal techniques used in writing poetry will most probably feel out of place. By this I mean any use of the second and third person will tend to feel false. Equally, the poses, abstractions and other distancing structures available and somewhat inherent in writing will tend to produce the same feeling of falseness. What you are left with, as far as my experience has shown me, is a rather bare bones posture, and you may feel uncomfortable with so little support. The way out is simply to trust your instincts and start speaking when the poem starts to form.



On the whole, it has been quite unsettling to see how quickly poems have begun to form for me, and how close to the bone they are, so much so that I feel if there is any inherent danger in speaking poems, it is they will tend toward the small rather than the grand. My approach here has been simply to discard them as small talk if they don’t meet my artistic expectations of a truly urgent speaking. Think of it this way: there’s no need for a wastebasket.



Justin Spring












SOULSPEAK: SOME THOUGHTS ON POETRY AS SPOKEN LANGUAGE




I don't think it is any secret it is the task of each generation of poets to recast its songs of love and death in a language unique to that generation, but we are failing miserably at that task because our poetry culture is continuing to value a poetry that is increasingly out of touch with the sea of language we are all being forced to swim in: a language that wants to be spoken and heard, rather than written and read.



If you're not convinced there is a difference between a spoken and a written poetry I suggest you try this as an exercise: go up to someone you love or hate and tell them so in very specific language. Then go home and write them to the same effect. The differences in tone and structure are not superficial I can assure you. This is equally true for poems that are spoken in nature rather than written. The whole structure of the poem changes, it begins to have those qualities that have defined oral poetry since time immemorial: it is more direct in structure and tone, more narrative, less elaborate in imagery, more immediately engaging. In short, there is more of a sense of "being there". And that is precisely the kind of poetry our times are calling for.



And yet, despite this rather simple explanation of the difference between a spoken and a written poetry, I have engendered so many misconceptions that I should make it clear I am not calling for a return to the oral traditions of the past, which is impossible, because those traditions belong to those specific times and their specific language structures, but to something new.



I think part of the confusion comes from the fact that poets have come to mistake the totem for the god, ie, they have come to the point of automatically equating poetry with literature; but anyone who has had any acquaintance with oral or musical poetry knows intuitively that poetry has only something to do with literature but almost everything to do with words and music and movement, and furthermore, that anyone with even the smallest sense of history and the true nature of poetry knows equally well that an oral/musical/rythmically-moved to poetry existed for thousands and thousands of years prior to the emergence of writing.



But it was the revolution of the printing press that essentially changed poetry from a written to a spoken art and caused poetry to drop its historical alliance with music and movement and to begin its long wrestling match with an artistic prose, a match that resulted in poetry's written form rapidly dominating its oral/musical form until recently. And although we can't go back to the exact oral poetry of the past, we can allow ourselves to be pulled back to something similar to it. I would prefer to call this new oral poetry "spoken" poetry, in order to distinguish it from the oral traditions that preceded the printing press. After all, our speaking has been altered forever it's influence, but more especially in our times by the influences of the telephone and radio and the movies, and yes, let us not forget it, television.



One of the most telling remarks I've encountered in this regard was that of some European friends who told me recently that they found the English of Americans much easier to understand than that of the British because the American vocabulary was so narrow. Some years ago, I might have been appalled by that observation, but it didn't shock me at all: it is a natural outcome of the process of a language that is returning itself to a a spoken form. After all we Americans have 67 channels and the British 3 or 4, so why shouldn't we be ahead of them in returning to a spoken language.



What I am saying is that poets should open their sensibilities to what is happening around them. Besides living in a culture that is rapidly becoming an oral one, we are also living in a profoundly musical culture, one dominated by popular song. And if some of us tend to put our nose up in the air at the mention of pop music maybe we should remind ourselves that if that form of poetry was good enough for Shakespeare, who wrote over 400 songs, then maybe we should pay some attention to it as well. Maybe not just include music in our readings as background, but as an essential element, and maybe even write a few lyrics for the blues and jazz and rock that define our times and lift the art even higher, or maybe go back to the earlier chanting/musical traditions of oral poetry and take a chance or two winging it like Homer did, but with the musical instruments and forms of our time.



With regard to composing a spoken poetry, I should say that I have grown from writing them as they come to me to speaking them out loud at the earliest possible time, while they are still forming, and I can unequivocally say that I can write and think through a lie as a poem forms, but I can't speak out loud through a lie: the tongue simply stops unless the conscious mind forces it to speak the lie, which it does very, very haltingly. I have come to favor this method of composition, although I don't know if it is unique to me. What results are poems that were truly spoken, with writing being utilized more as a recording device, much as a composer writes down the notes of a musical composition he has just finished humming. Because if you allow the poems to come to you not as if you are writing them, but as if you are speaking to your imaginary listener, AND YOU ACTUALLY SPEAK THEM, the resultant poetry will be different. I might also add the odd fact that oral composition makes the poem instantly memorable in the mind of the poet, a potent reminder of one reason why the oral bards of the past could so easily recall their work.



Surely a truly spoken poetry is a way for poetry to reclaim a good part of it's lost audience, because readings, or more correctly, speakings, can truly help save poetry from its current isolation if used correctly. In fact, I think speakings are the only way this is going to happen, but they will only fulfill their true objective when poets stop trying to use them to speak a written poetry that usually doesn't speak well. I'd drive a couple of hundred miles to hear some poets speak their poetry, but not very many. Go to a local poetry reading and count the three or four nodding heads if you doubt I'm correct. And the problem can't be ducked by saying we are living in a nation of Philistines. There may be barbarians at the gates, but there are also hundreds if not thousands of people in every town of any size who are attending opera and ballet and theatre and art exhibits on a regular basis. So why aren't they crossing the street to hear us? That's the real question poets should be honestly asking themselves.



On the other hand, we at the Sarasota Poetry Theatre pack a local cafe four times a month with a poetry audience of ALL ages whose size and attentiveness have astounded visiting poets. The trick is a simple one: we perform only those poems from the past and present that fall into what I have defined as a spoken poetry. And when it makes sense, we collaborate with dancers, musicians, singers, translators and actors to emphasize and reintroduce the rhythmic and musical components of poetry it has been divorced from for so long. This goes for both classic and contemporary poetry. The result is somewhat tribal: very full-blooded, highly electric, and right on the money. I'd say it's quite close to what goes on in the poet at the moment of conception but it's been given public face: a face that is updated but quite close, I believe, to that which it had prior to the printing press. To put it more simply, we are doing what poets did for thousands of years before Gutenberg helped turn poetry in on itself.

Justin Spring






IS POETRY RELEVANT ANYMORE?



Just the question is enough to put you off. How many times over the past twenty or thirty years have we heard that same question asked, by poets and critics alike, as if the asking itself might somehow prevent poetry from slipping completely beneath the horizon of our consciousness. But let's face it, poetry is irrelevant. Nobody cares. Listen, if you haven't heard, everybody's too busy going to the movies or watching television or listening to Top 40. Poetry is getting killed at the box-office, as they say.


And yet poetry keeps hanging on inside us. Everyone, at some time in their life, has had a poem bubble up out of them quite unexpectedly. Sometimes more. Hey, we're not talking about quality here, just the fact that poetry occurs, because that's the really significant thing: that it keeps on happening. And because it keeps on happening, you could almost say poetry is our most universal art, despite its rather low position on our current billboard of what's at the circus. There may be many reasons for poetry's odd staying power, but they all eventually have something to do with the fact that poetry is, in some very essential way, our most human art. To speak, to name things, to tell stories, is coterminous with being human, that is, the first moment of human awareness must have occurred when someone first uttered a name for something. And it was the first story, or poem if you will, albeit a very small one. But it must have been a momentous speaking. Heaven blazing in to the head, as Yeats once said. It's easy to see why we've never gotten over it.



These startling messages from the soul that began by naming things, and which in time grew into still longer, more intricate stories, are still with us today. We call these messages the same thing we did in ancient times: poetry, which is itself derived from the ancient Greek root, poiein: "to make". Not to write lines, meter, rhymes, stanzas, but simply to make something where there was nothing before. Indeed those momentous speakings, or poems, still have somewhat the same effect upon us today, even if they don't bubble up quite as easily as they did in the past, when everything was poetry. Yet, when they do come to us, we instinctively know that something profound has occurred. Indeed, despite the fact that everyone knows poetry is dead, when our own poems come to us, we treat them as sacred events. No one has to tell us to do that, we automatically do it, because every fiber of our being knows we have received something akin to grace, that the soul itself has spoken to us, and for us.




This is why poets will climb all over each other if you ask them to speak their poems. Even if it means boring you to death for hours. To do less would be a sacrilege: after all, the speaking must be passed on. W.H. Auden's take on all this was his rather arch reminder that bad poetry is always sincere, as if we needed reminding. He could be nasty, that one. But there is a truth imbedded in Auden's wit, for even if the soul, in speaking to us, alters us in imaginable, and unimaginable, ways, there is no guarantee we're going to pass that speaking on correctly. This is why producing poetry has always been a very tricky proposition: like Moses coming down from the mountain but with only two and a half commandments and those barely legible. Audiences can be pretty fickle at times like that, and really, who's to blame them. This is why poets should maybe take a little time and look at the tablets before rushing down the mountain.



With all that said, we can begin to answer the question about poetry's relevancy. Well, here's the first half of the answer: poetry is always relevant to the poet; and here's the second half: it is usually irrelevant to others unless it is true to its time both in form and content. Unfortunately, while the content of our contemporary poetry may be true to our time, its form, in some very real sense, is completely out of touch with it. I say this not as a Yahoo, but as a poet who has spent a major part of his life writing and publishing poetry; because the inescapable fact is that poetry, in its traditional written form, is out of tune with our time, a time where it has to compete with audio/visual forms unimaginable in Homer's time, or if you really want to know, in any other time. But just as Homer had to fit his divinely-inspired song into the vocabulary and dactyl- hexameter rhythmic/musical measure of ancient bardic Greek, and just as Shakespeare had to shake off the academic theatrical forms of his age in order to create a dramatic poetry truer to his time, so we must find a form that will make poetry come alive for our time. Of course, this is only important if the poet wants his work to be meaningful to others. It's every poet's choice, really, and who is to say that the making of the poem is not enough for some of us?



Yet, for those of us who see poetry as a communicative process, that is, one that seeks and completes itself through an audience, irrelevancy is not an option. We must find a way to make poetry relevant, in the same way that contemporary music and the movies are relevant. It's not impossible, it just takes courage, because our current form of written poetry is no longer capable of competing for the attention of those who are ravenously supporting dance, visual arts, movies, theatre, music, need I go on. In fact, our contemporary poetry is dangerously close to becoming a court poetry. As far as the public is concerned, written poetry has taken a distant back seat to contemporary musical poetry, having been first challenged in the fifties by the nasty nursery rhymes of black R&B and then severely trounced in the sixties and later by musical poets such as Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, James Taylor, I could go on forever. That troubadour tradition has existed in poetry since time immemorial, but the ascendance of written poetry starting in the 17th century, which was made possible by the emergence of the printing press, eventually caused the troubadour tradition to transform itself into what we call song and to find a home in the English ballads that eventually crossed the Atlantic and became what we call folk music that in turn produced Woodie Guthrie who in turn begat Dylan who in his own time begat everybody. If I had musical talents, I would probably be making musical poetry today, that's how powerful that branch of poetry has become. And it's attracting incredibly gifted poets who are somehow surviving the utter commercialization of the music industry. So that branch of poetry is taking care of itself. We don't have to worry about it at all.



But no matter how powerful it is, musical poetry does have its limitations, and what is needed as a complement is a public, spoken poetry that can truly reach out to the audience struggling to find it. Many of our poets feel this can happen through poetry readings, but we are in a bit of a dilemma here, because most of our poetry has become so dense and introverted that it has completely lost its sense of song, or for that matter, its ability to communicate except when read silently by the most persistent and dedicated of readers. And as written poetry hasn't had a true, public (read non-academic) audience since the fifties, any attempt to speak it aloud usually results in something not only incredibly boring but incomprehensible as well. The almost non-existent attendance at readings is a good indication of how poor they are as a solution to the problem, and even the wiser heads among us have pretty much stuck their heads in the sand about this, having come to the inescapable conclusion that contemporary poetry, with some exceptions, simply doesn't speak that well. At all. And our academic poetry culture, which by its very nature is always fighting a rear guard action, doesn't seem at all capable of encouraging the necessary changes.


What is required, of course, is a poetry that is truly speakable, because we are living in a time where the major part of our artistic, social and political communication is being accomplished by speaking rather than by writing. It is what we expect and desire. Indeed the language itself is changing to a more oral form. Is it any wonder then that what we need is a poetry composed not by the act of writing but the act of speaking? Isn't it clear to even the most dense of us that what we need in order to communicate is a new form of oral poetry ? And yet rather than take this step, our academic poetry culture will do what it has always done in times of danger and confusion, pull up the drawbridges and settle down to passing around manuscripts among themselves.




Except these aren't the Dark Ages, and it's no time to start emulating them. Where we are today is at the beginning of a new semi-oral age, but one slightly different from the semi-oral age that preceded the printing press, because this time not only can everyone read and write but we also have other options made possible by our electronically-connected culture. In short, people are able to speak to one another, artistically, socially and politically, in ways they never could before. Think of it: the telephone, radio, movies and yes, television, the bˆte noir of our times, all enable us to communicate effortlessly by speaking and listening. And, hey, people like it: after all, it is our most natural form of communication. And, lest we forget it, our most divine.



One way then to make poetry relevant is to make our written poetry more speech-like, i.e., make a poetry that honors the qualities of speech. But this is only a partial solution, because what is required is a truly hearable speech, and the only thing that can really produce that is a poetry composed by the act of speaking. And besides, written poetry may not change in the least; it really depends on how open to change our academic poetry culture is. If the past is prologue, however, it doesn't look at all promising.



The other approach, and one that perhaps makes more sense, at least to me, is to re-invent an oral poetry for our times. Even if this approach seems radical at first glance, oral poetry is undeniably the true form for our times, and the only one that will truly fulfill the need for a poetry that can be spoken and heard. Rap is a pretty good example of an ancient oral poetry form reappearing right under the noses of our academies. Millions listen to it. If you know anything about ancient oral poetry you have to come to the conclusion that rap, in almost every way, is a true oral poetry. But it is a young poetry still at the stage of a satirical, or message poetry, a poetry more concerned with the self speaking than the soul speaking, and for the most part, the commercial end of it is headed toward becoming another form of musical poetry. But I also feel that some part of rap will become more intimate and self-revealing, that is, some part of it will develop into a true, contemporary oral poetry.


There are, of course, other forms of oral poetry than rap. SOULSPEAK, a multi-voiced, adaptation of ancient, oral tribal poetry, is a form that I and several others have developed over the past 3 or 4 years or so. It is what I would call a true oral poetry, that is, a musically-driven poetry that is formed around the matrix of spontaneous, narrative speech rather than the matrix of writing. In short, it is never written down, and honors the same principles that governed the composition of ancient, preliterate oral poetry. And there are other forms of oral waiting to be re- invented. All we need is the courage to open our mouths. Let me put it to you this way: POETRY CAN BE RELEVANT TO OTHERS IF WE WANT IT TO BE.



Justin Spring










ALL PHOTOGRAPHS IN ESSAY SECTION BY JUSTIN SPRING
PAINTINGS OF ALAMOS PLAZA Copyright 2007 CERVANDO PEREZ MARQUEZ/LA ROBINA, PHOTOGRAPHS, XEROX COLLAGE OF JUSTIN SPRING BY JUSTIN SPRING 2007


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