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Poetry across frontiers

A discussion among e-poets network community members from South Africa, England, Canada, and the United States.


This is a snapshot of a collective conscience. It's a transcript of an online dialogue on the development of performance poetry within local communities. The discussion is excerpted from the e-poets listserv, which we Network members use for critique, collaboration, and promotion of poetry among us.


No doubt you've had a version of this dialogue before: You and a friend take a moment to share your greater hopes -- the things you want to do with your life and your writing -- and then you think about what it takes to achieve them in the framework of your own city. Audiences won't come if they aren't used to thinking of poetry as a part of your city's regular cultural agenda. Should you host an open mike or a slam? Is slam poetry good or bad for your community? And how can you tell?

In the end, you make choices. If you're a poetry presenter, you choose what will positively advance your community's literary ecology. If you're a poet, you look for those aspects of the environment that can help you most while respecting the prerogatives of others. You reject those things that shut you off from progress and growth. You embrace what gives you promise and future. You look for new, untried paths that give you fresh starts. And you turn to friends for advice. Their experience will help you to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This transcript is a chronicle of such a communal search for experience, and it reveals how people in different places on Earth have made distinctly different choices for themselves. Our discussion begins in Johannesburg, South Africa. Take the first step, and follow this dialogue with us.

- Kurt Heintz
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