Tag Archives: Miley Cyrus

Writing Wednesday: There Will Be Twerking at Brooklyn Book Festival

4 Sep

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It may not be the VMAs, but the Brooklyn Book Festival isn’t your mother’s book club. The festival announced its schedule of events last week, and, yes, there will be twerking … or rather, the author of TwERK, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, will be on the panel Poetry in Performance. Here’s TwERK‘s overview, in case you aren’t familiar with it:

TWERK unveils an identity shaped by popular media and history, code switching and cultural inclusivity. The poems, songs, and myths in this long-awaited first book are as rooted in lyric as in innovation, in Black music as in macaronic satire. TWERK evokes paradox, humor, and vulnerability, and it offers myriad avenues fueled by language, idiom, and vernacular. This book asks only that we imagine America as it has always existed, an Americana beyond the English language.

“Here it is: a dope jam of dictions; a remixed, multicultural, polyphonic dance of vocabularies; a language of high stakes, hi-jinx, and hybridity. TWERK is subversive, vulnerable, and volatile. TwERK twists tongues. TwERK tweaks speech. Reading these amazing poems mostly makes me say, Wow! Open your ears to take this music in, open your mouth to say it out loud. And: Wow!”—Terrance Hayes

The Poetry in Performance panel will also feature Tyehimba Jess (leadbelly), Taylor Mali (The Last Time As We Are), and Quincy Troupe (ErranCities) and is moderated by Mary Gannon of the Academy of American Poets.

Performance has long been an essential part of poetry. The great ancient epics were told through oral storytelling or sung. It’s believed that Homer’s The Odyssey, for example, was brought to life by a professional performer known as a rhapsode, who improvised according to his audience.

Readings expose works to new audiences. They can make the words on a page feel more personal as the audience hears the intonation of the author’s voice and connects with him or her.

Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” stands on its own as a great poem, but hearing him read it aloud makes it that much more powerful.

It’s sometimes been said, though, that writers are their own worst readers. This is because writing and performing are two very different skill sets.

Some poets love open mics and performing their works, but not all do. Many introspective writers envisioned a life of sitting alone in a room with a cup of steaming hot coffee as their fingers flew over a typewriter; not a life shuttling from bookstore to coffeehouses to give readings to bored patrons. Yet, many authors today are told to give readings, appear on radio shows, and sell their work.

The blogs have been abuzz about Miley Cyrus’ twerking at the VMAs, and some, like Pakalert Press, have blamed her handlers, like her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, did a few years ago. We like to think of poetry performance as being on a higher plane, but, to play devil’s advocate, is it always so different? Isn’t performance just another form of marketing?

Is the proliferation of burlesque poetry an example of literary twerking? Are these female poets subverting expectations or unwittingly playing into them? Does slam improve one’s improvisation and literary techniques or has it simply become its own cliche style? Must a writer give into the agent/publicist/handler’s pressure to perform his or her work to succeed in today’s literary landscape?

 

More Writing Wednesday posts here.

 

 

 

 

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Parallel Generations

19 Jul

Why is Hollywood taking an interest in the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation?  Are there parallels between the generations of the past and today’s generations?  Is history cyclical?

From a historic standpoint, it makes sense that today’s generations are looking back at the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation.  Like the Lost Generation, the current generation has experienced war.  Although the Lost Generation predates the Great Depression by a few years, novels such as The Great Gatsby have much to say about the disparity of wealth, a topic that this generation has dealt with during the Great Recession.  Part of the seedy wealth distribution of the ‘20s had to do with bootlegging.  Prohibition may not be something today’s candidates have on the table, but there’s a definite right-wing conservatism bent influencing culture today.

The Beat Generation writers were those who were born around the time of the Great Depression and came of age during World War II.  Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes actually were thinking of the Lost Generation when they came up with the idea that they were the Beat Generation.  The obvious parallels between the two generations being the world wars.  While the Lost Generation was going into the Great Depression, the Beat Generation was coming out of it, and so while the Lost Generation was more about decadence the Beat Generation was more about simplicity.  Perhaps, then, today’s older generation is looking toward the Lost Generation and the younger generation looking towards the Beat Generation for confirmation on the way we live our lives.

After all, generations have followed suit in this pattern of economy and war since these generations.  The Baby Boomers were all about the money, and then Generation X was the slacker generation.

Since then we’ve seen Generation Y, also known as the Millennials or Generation Next, who are often thought of as privileged Trophy Kids.  These are the eighties babies (give or take) that are now in their twenties, a few even in their thirties.

Generations X and Y heard Reality Bites, My So-Called Life, and Fight Club tell us our great war was within ourselves.  –And then the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11.  It was around that time that Generation Y turned to indie music, the locavore movement, and reviving arts and crafts.

After that came Generation Z, or Generation I, the kids born in the ‘90s, for whom the Internet, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession are a way of life.  Generations Y and Z are the i-generation, each having their own personal computers, finding fame on blogs and in social media, the generation that is connected and disconnected.  They began looking back at Generation X, wearing flannel.  Miley Cyrus was photographed wearing a Nirvana t-shirt.

The Pew Research Center has a fascinating report that charts the different Generations’ attitudes toward politics, religion, immigration, marriage, and more.

Technology is developing at a faster and faster rate, and with it, generations are shortening and multiplying.  When you think about it, iphones models are even called by their generation, as in the second generation iphone, acknowledging how much generations are defined by technology, as well as money and politics.  Therefore, it’s easy to see how certain generations blend together, which may also be a result, as the Pew Research Center data seems to suggest, of the delayed adulthood.

What generation do you identify with?