Universes at the Works
I could not disagree more with the anonymous blogger who called Universes “best in show”. I was going to post this as a comment, but I felt like it needed full play. And somebody has to say that the Emperor is naked. The work that Universes is doing is not the poetry analogue of the kind of dance and theater we are seeing in this festival.
We saw Universes do a dressed up version of slam-esque performance poetry dosed with blues and beatboxing. It’s fine for what it is. They are a team of talented performers who hit the early 90s perf-po wave and are ridin’ it. But this is still the same kind of poem, at turns didactic, diary-based, at base narrative. If work that was wearing thin at the end of the 90s is just now making its way into time-based art realm, we have a big huge gigantic problem.
I haven’t previewed Jerry Quickley’s piece, but you won’t find experimental poem-based performance there either (his work also is based in the Slam). And this is an ongoing issue. The work that this festival is delivering in dance, in theater, in film, is fascinating, experimental, and challenging. Why can’t we look further into poem-based performance to find those operating on that same outer edge?
There’s nothing outer-edge about this work, and that’s the bummer. The chant, the song, the beat, the poem, none of this is new, nor is it mixed here in a new way, just a dynamic way that will wow someone who’s never seen poems performed by anyone other than his 7th grade teacher droning, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”