Def Poetry: August 5 2005

What I liked about last night’s Def Poetry show:

I appreciated Suhier Hammid’s opener, “Mike Check”, about an airport security guard named Mike and the dumb things he says as he goes through the poet’s bags. Hammid is a solid performer and she knows how to construct a piece that really gets a point across (I also get racially profiled every time I go anywhere near an airplane, for some reason, so I know what she’s talking about).

There will usually be at least one “speak up for the minority” piece per Def Poetry episode, and this time the minority was women with big butts, proudly represented by Tamara Blue with a beatific smile and a bunch of good lines.

Mood changes: hiphop is the show’s dominant style, but diversity provides the basic framework (it’s a great mix). Otep gave us some grunge stylings, and then there was a refreshing moment with Sharon Olds, a “serious” poet from a completely different background than the rest of the performers. I would have liked to hear Olds read one of her more powerful pieces, but instead she played to the audience with an amusing bit about her 54-year-old body. It got laughs, and I guess it was one of the high points of the show. I hope the show will bring in more poets from the academic/literary circles in the future, though, and I hope they’ll sometimes do their more challenging pieces.

Back to the hiphop, then: I also really liked New York subway poet Heru Ptah’s hilarious diatribe against, well, against a lot of things: monogamy, religion … this guy has got a lot to say.

There were echoes of the greats: Consequence gave us a funny piece about a girl who’s just “a friend” that recalled Biz Markie, and the show closed with a stirring plea by Black Thought that recalled Gil Scott-Heron. Not a bad mix at all.

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