Sunday, April 8, 2012

Do you hear the Shakespearean cadence in this young woman's poetry?

Happy National Poetry Month!

While surfing for something about Louisiana-born poet Yusef Komunyakaa, I came across a interview at Well&Often Press: The Love Child of Frida Kahlo and DMX: An Interview with Safia Elhillio. It included video of Elhillio performing her spoken word poem "Questions for John Coltrane, from his saxophone." The interview, conducted and written by Kameelah Janan Rasheed, came up in my search because its author includes Komunyakaa's name in the first paragraph, and what a paragraph it is:
Somewhere between forced iambics, obligatory revolutionary regalia, exaggerated movements, and strangely timed inflection, I decided that spoken word was the unfortunate anachronism that all responsible citizens had the responsibility to contain and neutralize. I’d much prefer to sit with a stack of Harryette Mullen or Yusef Komunyakaa than subject myself to another smoke filled back room with a dreaded man, lathered in shea butter, yelling at the audience about African queendom or performing a not so cleverly disguised poem about his girl’s multiple orgasms.
I read more, "Enter Safia Elhillo. Safia’s performance pulled me back into the world of spoken word," and so, I had to watch Safia's performance on video; I can certainly see and hear why this young spoken word poet would appeal to a reader who prefers "book poetry." Her poetic register has the definite imprint of Shakespearean cadence and diction, of a literary canonical pastiche; the her delivery style also echoes that of actors reciting that most English famous bard. I wonder whether or not she was inspired by the name of John Coltrane's birthplace, Hamlet, North Carolina. She is from the Sudan.

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