In Poetry as Insurgent Art, Laurence Ferlinghetti (an American “Beat” poet) declared: “If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic…you can conquer the conquerors with words…” Half way through the beginning of Slam, the Lions Gate 1999 movie, Raymond Joshua (played by real-life poet Saul Williams) confronts a violent situation in an extraordinary manner never seen before in any film. The action is dangerous, riveting, startling, and true to life, but the way it ends leaves everyone, including the audience, in stunned wonder. What is this thing he does? Within the shadows of Washington DC’s monuments, Raymond is a small time drug pusher who gets caught up in a murder rap. His prison life becomes a microcosm of everything he denied around him while on the outside – war, brutality, ignorance, loss, inhumanity, and misdirected anger. He tries to keep clear of danger. But soon in the hot summer prison yard when tensions build between rival gangs, Raymond is forced to take sides or else give up his physical safety. Instead, he does neither. He does something unexpected, something he found while alone and trapped within his cell, something he discovered listening to a voice within himself and made himself remember, an extraordinary thing: he speaks a poem. It is full throated, in your face, and relentless- a fully embodied blast of truth. As his ending words are unleashed and he walks away, it’s rather comic. The towering muscle-ripped gang members are too taken off guard to continue with their intentions, and are instead, left to a slow headshaking disengagement of rumination and wonder. This is the power of poetry.
Many have sought to define poetry:
Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.
Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
Poetry, like the moon, does not advertise anything.
A poem should not mean. But be.
Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.
Language is fossil poetry.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The object of The Prosody 400 Workshop is to have a chance to define the word for ourselves.
The ancient Grecian poet Sappho said:
Like the very gods in my sight is he who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice…
We hope that you will enjoy listening.