Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Page Meets Stage!

     In the world of poetry there's this strange stigma that there is a separation between "the page" and "the stage" and the poets who take part in either. The page meaning poetry that is published in chapbooks, magazines, full collections, anthologies, online publications, etc. and a page poet would be someone who only specializes in those things. Whereas the stage aspect is only spoken word, poetry that is typically performed from memory, live, in front of audiences. For years, naturally, "page" poetry has been seen as more academic and stage poetry is seen as more street/urban/underground. There is a certain level of prestige attached to publishing work, to this day there are writers who do not believe they are "real poets" until they are published. Spoken Word being the sibling to rap and a big part of Hip-Hop culture it gets the reputation that comes along with hip-hop culture, being made from scratch by people who did not have other resources, being apart of the lower class. Spoken Word artists are still seen as poets who can't really write and poets who do not performer are seen as poets who are confined to academic standards.

     For over a decade the Page Meets Stage has capitalized off of this "separation" by hosting monthly events that pair a typical "stage poet" with a typical "page poet" for back to back performances followed by a Q&A. Often, however, the pairings make it difficult to determine who is who. The page poet has probably performed and competed in poetry slams plenty of times, and the stage poet has probably been published various places. At the end of the day they are always both phenomenal poets and the events are always great time.

New York based poet, April Ranger. The host for the evening

Hanif Willis-Abdurraquib
   This month as we all returned from the holidays, Page Meets Stage's first pairing of the year is quite the mouth watering one. For the page we had Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Poet published in various journals and collections, essayist, and currently a columnist for MTV. For the stage we have Steven Willis, Spoken word artist, "Slam Poet", instructor, and two-time finalist of the Individual World Poetry Slam. Not to mention Hanif has taken part in slam poetry for years, whether as a competitor or coach and Steven has been published in few collections as well. None-the-less these are two incredible contemporary poets on the scene right now.

    The entire evening was moving, entertaining, thought-provoking, and just enjoyable. You cannot help but feel proud of two established Black Men, still learning, still growing and being damn good with words while they're at it. In Page Meets Stage fashion the poets went back in forth with poems that spoke to one another, so great it almost became competitive. A line in one of Steven's poems would be an image in one of Hanif's and so on and so forth. With personal accounts of being Black in America, Masculinity, heartache, growing pains, and humor there could not have been a better pairing than what Sunday night brought. In the historical Bowery Poetry Club, a staple in New York City's art movement on the Lower East Side, PMS proves that that art is still thriving. Though both Abdurraquib and Willis are both Mid-Westerners they certainly made home out New York City on that stage.

Hanif Willis-Abdurraquib and Steven Willis

     Following the poems was the Q&A, which is often my favorite part of any event. Both poet answer questions pertaining to their work but also how their personal lives influence who they are as artists, especially considering the social climate. Find out more about these poets and their work: Hanif Abdurraquib, Steven Willis. For more information about Page Meets Stage and how you can attend click HERE.

Steve Willis

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