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Bad Poetry Need Not Apply

10/05/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe


The Literary Café poetry night does NOT believe in diversity. It has no time for checking how many of what type we have there. It does not worry about whether we are fair to all walks of society. It has no material assets, so cares naught if the self righteous boycotts, the overly sensitive protests, or the self proclaimed holders of judgment fines it, garnishes it, or blocks donations.

The Literary Café poetry night is biased, is exclusive, is pretentious. It spits in the eye of fashionable causes. It rebels against sanctimony. It has only one cause celebre. The Literary Café poetry night only cares about GOOD POETRY. For that, we go to the bulwarks. We fight for independence. We explore the outer reaches of Akron, the mists of Toledo, climb the heights of Canton, wade the bogs of Burton. It is poetry of quality that is important. The poets are not important. We care little who they are, where they are from, what to they look like, what’s their orientation, are they from the orient. Do they like me, do I like them. Did they pay a bribe, did I pay them a bribe. Do I ever pay anybody anything. It does not matter! Only the poetry matters!

And so this Thursday, yet another in a long line of second Thurdays, October 9 at 9:30pm, we have GREAT poetry on demand. And yes from poets who do not matter except they make great poetry. And maybe that is reason enough for us to laud and respect our two features, Mwatabu Okantah and Bridget Kriner.

I first heard Mwatabu Okantah about 6 six years ago when he was the guest poet at the old Cleveland Slam nights at the Beachland. I was just getting into the scene and trying to find out what poetry was about, when this gentle man in dreadlocks and a smile read poems of heart and struggle in a soft voice. Between a couple of poems, he stopped and made just one comment that was a poem in itself. One that I have held as the reason why poetry is important. He said, “I don’t vote. I write poems.” Then he went to his next piece and I was searching for him again ever since, and now he is here to show how powerful a poem is, even compared to a vote. Mwatabu is an accomplished poet, musician, educator and has been published and performed widely. We are fortunate to have him with us.

Mwatabu S. Okantah holds the BA in English and African Studies from Kent State University (1976) and the MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York (1982). Currently, he is an Assistant Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. He also serves as Director of the Center of Pan-African Culture. Afew of his books are: Afreeka Brass (1983), Collage (1984), Legacy: for Martin & Malcolm (1987) and Cheikh Anta Diop: Poem for the Living—published as a limited trilingual edition in English, French and Wolof (1997). He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife and five of his seven children.

A familiar face in Tremont is Bridget Kriner, who r.a. washington introduced to me at Civilization just as she finished her M.A. from CSU in 2005. I read her thesis that afternoon and it was then I knew I was in the presence of a great poet. She has been published in Poetry Motel and Whiskey Island, which she served as the poetry editor for a time. She can’t quite recall the last publication she was in, but knows that it was good. I chased her for reading at the Lit for years, but Thursdays is working night when she slings beers at a local bar and restaurant. During the day she works as a counselor at a fantastic abortion clinic in Cleveland and lives in our happy little Tremont neighborhood with her cats, Nora & Stanley. When she grows up one day, she hopes to finish her book of poems and that someone will publish it. She also needs to read at more venues so we can all get the benefit of her words.

The benefit of maintaining high standards is that diversity follows. We have very diverse personages, with diverse motivations, and diverse styles. And yet Mwatabu and Bridget are the same in their love of poetry and their talent to write it. True excellence is diversity, not the other way around. For the rest of us that keep struggling and trying to find our excellence, the Literary Café allows us to show our efforts in the open mic portion of the evening. So come, this Thursday, October 9 at 9:30pm to hear the accomplished and to share our toil. The Literary Café is at 1031 Literary Road in the excellent (hence diverse) Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.

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1 comment

Comment from: Touche [Visitor]
ToucheI heard great things about this sight and those who take part in the events, I'm a young poet trying to find places to share my stories.
10/31/08 @ 08:47