Sound writing: Gemineye on the wonders of spoken-word poetry
A spoken-word poetry revolution is rapidly replacing the daffodils, summer days and Grecian urns of classical poetry with a gritty, urban, in-your-face realism that some say is more appropriate for today’s world.
One of the vanguards of the revolution, the American poet Gemineye, (real name Chris Kuretich), recently performed at the Bermuda College and gave workshops to students there.
Although he lists spoken word artists such as Lemon Andersen, Shihan and Suheir Hammad as his inspiration, he still has a healthy respect for the more traditional poets.
In fact, his poem ‘Poetic Bloodlines’ pays homage to Langston Hughes, Keats and Wordsworth.
The difference between regular poetry and spoken-word poetry, is that the latter is performance-based and primarily meant to be digested by ear.
“I wrote ‘Poetic Bloodlines’ because shortly after I began to write my own stuff I went back and took a look at some of the classical writers that I had been taught in high school and college-level English courses,” he said. “I didn’t have a great appreciation for them until I started to write my own stuff.”
He believes that contemporary spoken-word artists like Mr Andersen should be taught alongside more traditional poets something already happening in some classrooms.
“It would give young people something to identify with,” he said. “These are poets that they can make contact with, e-mail, see on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. In the United States there is a huge movement of poets between the ages of 13 and 19. There is a National Youth Poetry slam [an intense poetry competition]. There are a lot of national youth writing organisations in cities across the United States. It is a big form of art in the youth population.”
This has led some purists to slam (excuse the pun) poetry slams for adding a competitive element to an art form that they feel was supposed to remain quiet and contemplative. But there are plenty of people who disagree, judging by the popularity of spoken-word poetry. Gemineye has performed all over the United States, in the Dominican Republic and now Bermuda. He has appeared on three seasons of ‘HBO Presents Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry’. He made a television commercial for a martial arts apparel company, using his poetry. He has also won numerous awards.
He spends his days working in the extracurricular department of State University of New York College of Cortland, but performs constantly. One year he visited 80 different colleges in the span of a few short months and considered taking a sabbatical from his day job.
“I decided that I wanted to make both things work,” he said. “You can make a living now out of poetry, but you need to really be making a living as an artist or writer, not necessarily as a poet. There are avenues where you can publish books and publish spoken-word CDs. You can make a living by performing and doing things for college- and high-school-age audiences, and some clubs. You are not going to do a poetry concert where you sell out a major venue.
“You have to be willing to diversify as a writer. Some spoken-word artists such as Carlos Gomez have appeared in major motion pictures. Lemon Andersen is now working on his second off-Broadway, one-man show.”
The interest in spoken-word poetry was born when he was in high school. A lot of his friends were interested in hip hop music. He found it confining to write for a particular beat of music.
“I decided to write more freely, which is what turned into my spoken word variety of poetry,” he said. “I liked it as a tool to express thought. I felt like I had a lot of things that I wanted to get off my mind and off my chest. It was a good way for me to be able to do that. In college I did a bit of performing arts. I identified with the idea of being able to write on stage, not necessarily for the written page.”
His writing process is to first think about the message that he wants to convey. He then writes, and rearranges and edits until he feels that “everything earns its place”.
“I do a lot of chopping and reediting,” he said.
He said he was happy to come to Bermuda to perform at the Bermuda College and he would return in a heartbeat.
“Bermuda wasn’t exactly a hard sell,” he said.
Gemineye is currently working on a writing a full-length novel in verse, in the style of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
“I have been working on it for 18 months,” he said.
To learn more look him up on Facebook under ‘Gemineye The Poet’, and on Twitter as Gemineye611. Check out his album ‘Raw Talent’ or find him on a hip hop mixed tape called ‘For Those Listening’, available on iTunes.
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