Thursday, May 6, 2010

Army of Nursery Rhymes

By Rob Callahan

If you only read one book of poetry this year, read Whitman or Plath, but if you find yourself in search of a second book, we recommend Army of Nursery Rhymes by local poet Cole "Inky" Sarar. Here's why:

We laypeople tend to think one of two things when the words "poetry" and "reading" cross our ears. Either we expect to suffer through a night of dry, metered academic stuff where it's all structure and theory, the sort of nonsense we only sit through to impress our dates, or we cringe at the prospect of another array of a capela pseudo hip-hoppers whose kind used to inundate the slam scene, also the sort of nonsense we sit through to impress our dates. Every so often, though, a show comes together and something more - not just a reading, but an event - and Sarar pulled just such a thing together a few weeks ago at the release show for her new chapbook.

Flanked by guest spoken word veterans Shá Cage, Kyle “GuanteMyhre, Wonder Dave, Aimee Renaud, Khary “6 is 9″ Jackson, Ruth F. Kohtz, and Beruch Porass-Hernandez, Sarar brought off a modern retooling of some timeless tales, seasoned with the energy of a slam veteran and the smart vision of a smart girl in a simple world, combining moth-style storytelling with Judy Tenuta's delivery and all of the charm and darkness you would expect from Gaiman. And she's more than just a performance poet.

In a literary world where performance pieces often lose their poignancy when printed on the page, Sarar stands out for having crafted live audience pleasers that translate to the page without missing a beat. From the tale of Little Boy Blue, invincible big brother, and the bears' retelling of the golden-curled little vandal to the inner meditations of Sheherazade and outward reflections on Cinderella, the feminist icon (and let's just not mention some of Prince Charming's more obvious flaws) Sarar writes poems that are less like verse than they are vivid fantasy epics that just happen to rhyme. Not to mention, she recruits visual artists from around the world to illustrate her visions.

1 comment:

Michael said...

The positive review of Cole's book is great, but could you have worked harder to insert more cliches about poetry and spoken word?

Characterizing the world of academic poetry as "metered" and "dry" and heady is not only lazy writing and lazy thinking, it's also wildly inaccurate. If you'd like to read more than one book of poetry this year, I'd love to make a number of recommendations.

Just as lazy and inaccurate is the characterization of slam as a bunch of "pseudo hip-hoppers" who "lose their poignancy when printed on the page." Cole, while good, is not a shining beacon of exception in the world of poetry/slam--her ability to both write and perform well and accessibly is actually typical of the poetry slam scene in general.

The use of these unoriginal observations in a poetry review, even when used as a way to promote a talented slam poet, is problematic. The only reason that "we laypeople" tend to think these things about poetry and slam is because "we laypeople" keep writing and expressing these outdated and inaccurate ideas.

Happy reading.

M. Mlekodaj