I attended a poetry afternoon on September 24 in Parksville presented by Word Storm Society of the Arts out of Nanaimo. Canadian sound, visual, and performance poet, Bill Bissett, performed selections from his latest collection, ‘breth”. He was joined by local poets, Nicole Potvin, Pat Smekal, and Ian Cognitō. Bill’s innovations have shaped poetry, music, painting, and publishing, and delighted audiences for half a century.
I was once again impressed with the power of performance poetry as Bill rattled, hooted, and performed a selection of poems from memory. However, I can’t help but wonder if the emphasis on performance takes away from the power of the words themselves. Bill used a lot of emotional and emphatic repetitions, some of them just sounds or words without context, or I suppose, hidden context, that was at times difficult to connect to my own meaningful experiences. In looking through his books of poems, some of the pages were just letters without spaces between, and in his performances, in some sections, he recited combinations of sounds without meaning for dramatic and emotional effect. Other poems were just for shear entertainment, such as the humor of raining frogs rather than cats and dogs.
Listening to Bill and Nicole perform their literary works left me with mixed emotions. For one, I would have such a difficult time memorizing any of these works, let alone performing them. However, I do believe there is a lesson here for me to speak my poems with more passion and drama. The other insight is the need to network with other poets and poetry organizations on the island. We need to share and learn from each other in order to bring poetry back to the place it belongs.