POETRY / On Poetry

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Autumn, and a faint whiff of hype in the air. America got football this summer and now, in return, we're getting The Spoken Word. The Spoken Word Movement is not, funnily enough, a 19th-century method of getting children to speak clearly, but the tag given to the hip young things at the forefront of the performance poetry boom currently sweeping the States. The first to invade these shores are the Nuyorican Poets, who promise to deliver gritty, post hip-hop, multi-ethnic rhymes from the street (watch out for 'The Elephant and the Anal Thermometer') in a slam at the ICA on Friday.

The five have been selected as the sharpest acts at the Nuyorican cafe in East Village, the epicentre of the boom, which has been running, sporadically, since 1972. Inevitably, parallels are being drawn almost daily with the Beat Generation (even MTV's Unplugged has given the stand-up poets their own slots), but, thankfully, the bards seem sceptical about the surge in interest. 'It's like going from 1962 to 1969 in about 60 seconds,' says Mike Tyler, 32, billed as 'the most dangerous poet in America' (above). 'It's completely ridiculous that every time something new comes along it has to be linked to something else, particularly something as upper-class as the Beat.'

A word of warning: the expression 'slam' is used rather loosely. Tracie Morris, Dael Orlandersmith, Willie Perdomo, Edwin Torres and Tyler won't be competing in a war of words, just doing their own spots rather like their counterparts on the London scene. 'It's just a way of tricking people into enjoying poetry,' Tyler admits. 'If you start taking it seriously you miss the whole point.'

The Nuyoricans, Fri/Sat 8pm, ICA, The Mall, SW1 (071-930 3647) Charing Cross, pounds 7/pounds 5. See ticket offer, p13

(Photograph omitted)

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