An Open Letter

As a writer growing up I have found myself drawn to or involved in different writing environments.For me, the internet has been a key factor in my development. I have transitioned from general lyricist into a spoken word artist.The internet has been good for me for its convenience and the challenge from artists of high calibre. As I turned 30 this year, I have been reflecting on my experiences and considering the place of this fine art within my life. My ethos has always been to let my light shine wherever I can. Poetry has featured everywhere, from my CV to napkins to disssertations.
All in all, I have sought a place for what became my strongest suit whilst finding myself.

As I have grown up, my involvement in poetry groups online has remained. During the earliest part of my transition circa 2004 – 6, I was very involved in Ladessa Sullivan’s “Verbal Artist” forum.
We had a tight, predominantly American group who contributed. I have always found that my most lyrical and some of the best pieces have been freestyles in the moment that rarely see the light of day.
In being part of this group I learned how poetryas taught in schools when I was growing up – was pretentious. It very much exploded the myth that I had to write a certain way to be classed as “one of them”.
In other words, I found a cool crowd that welcomed into their arms and all I did as be myself.

Whilst we have choice we have politics and poetry is no stranger to them. I choose not to be part of forums any more because the majority drive the wrong behaviours. The whole idea of forcing someone to comment on 2 poems for every one that want to post – as is the common rule on many forums – is absurd. I either like something or I don’t and herein comes the snobbishness. Yes I want to share my work, I may share my thoughts on another artists work yet it is my choice. To that end I have been barred from a forum for publicly disagreeing with other posters that a particular poem was as good as people said it was. Knowing your audience is welcomed but you must never write for anyone but yourself. Some poetry forums don’t like spoken word structures – my style sees a love/ hate relationship with technique so I skip over the lines.

Over time, groups grow and the key players move on, some into other directions. I followed the technological evolutions from message boards, myspace, poetry sites and now facebook.In the last few years I have gotten into poetry radio, again internet based and also predominantly American. As a token Brit calling into these shows, it once again has opened me up to more ears and new artists who I might never have known of. Poetry radio has definitely got a place for all, it would be great if spoken word shows were more visible in Britain. They give confidence to people who have never read their work for others before as would any offlie open mic, So far so good right?

Whilst I have featured and contributed to these groups and shows, I feel that the online world is good for a while. It is a temporal thing that you need plenty of appetite for yet cannot be the be all and end all of any serious artist. I have not performed offline much in several years so this has been a good way to stay sharp. However, the more I’ve got into the online world, the less I want to be a part of it for much longer. The recurring theme of “If I cared” has come back to me time and again. It is not that I have lost the hunger to write better or more creatively it has been a case of – what’s the point of being here?.

On BlogTalk radio there are many poetry shows, some established for a number of years, some not. It seems to me that some hosts have done it to build their fanbases as an artist as it diversifies their portfolio, Those who aren’t trying to host a radio show are rushing to push out a CD or a book. It’s as though the same people, are gunning for the same audience made of the same group of people and there are only so many of us. Spoken word outside of the states post def poetry still has a minority interest in terms of crossover appeal. It gets tapped up now and again for advertising but unless your’e really mixing it with much else you are limited.

Online poetry radio has to get its act in gear very quickly – I have noticed signs that hosts want to differentiate from each other – great! Open mic shows will always get the mix of talent levels. That said, in 18 months I have heard the same poems by the same artists on the same shows umpteen times. Hosts either blow smoke up behinds or don’t acknowledge the talents of those calling. There are undeniably talented people out there putting up a lot of quality yet poetry crowds don’t even seem to support themselves very well. Is it just the circle I’m in that is getting tired? Or is it that poets only post poems and don’t promote as well as they could. I say this because several hosts have fan pages with over 1000 likes on facebook, yet their shows don’t get more than about 20 people in the chat room and the number of listeners doesn’t greatly exceed that.Where are you all? When all is said and done, I feel that the market for promotion is saturated and the selfishness of an artist is all too prevalent.

Artists need to go back to the pad and figure out why they write again., why they share their work. Those with aspirations of fame, what is their business model to sit neatly with their creativity? Can they be sure of true quality. Developing writing and delivery is exceptionally important. Def Poetry has come and gone, it would be nice for artists to sound like themselves.

Like a musician who seeks out new genres to blend and different patterns to call his or her own, I push myself to ensure that I’m not just part of the furniture. I don’t always get the respect or acceptance others feel I deserve. At times I’ve felt like a nymphomaniac turning down sex because there was nothing in it for me. Nobody has to like everything, those who do are brazen liars. Excellence is key and until the partakers of poetry movements know what that looks like and can share that vision properly – we will always have a fragmented society.

For now poetry will always be that girl who can never be confident without attention. As for myself, perhaps in true late bloomer fashion, the time has come for me to move on and embrace life with wider arms.

As such “the game” will remain true to its insanity yet the playing field for this player,may change.

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