“Poetry is Not a Luxury”
Haiku, limerick, free- verse, sonnet, and now slam – the forms of poetry have been expanding even before Homer’s Odyssey was conceived. The most recent trending topic in poetry, slam poetry, has blown up outside the world of traditional classroom poetry and into the social lives of people across the country. As highlighted by the popularity of the Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry festival (also featured in our February Spotlight), this art form has really struck a chord with the youth of America.
In honor of National Poetry Month (yes, April!) it is only appropriate to spotlight a modern poet with a love for the written word as well as the performing arts.
Holly Bass started out like most writers, learning to read at a very early age and quickly developing a passion for the written word. She chose journalism as a major from a practical point a view, as a means of support while she developed her other forms of creative writing. She spoke of the appeal of finding creativity in “the idea of telling a true story in an engaging way”, but also the practical skill of having “to shape a story to meet the aspirations of a given audience.” Holly eventually found herself immersed in the world of a much more live audience.
Danny Hoch started the NY Hip-Hop Theater Festival a decade ago, and Holly was able to play a crucial role in the festival’s second year. The fusion of poetry, music, dance and theater was exciting, and she was certainly in her element. She revealed her enthusiasm for the event, explaining, “I felt that finally someone was telling my story and speaking for my generation in a way that was really exciting and groundbreaking.”
Holly honed her creative skills and became curator for the event, but her influence over others has also been utilized behind the scenes. Holly was a member of the DC WritersCorps from 1995-1997, an experience that really connected her to her community. She was able to work with young people on their writing, often giving them “a sense of direction.” She emphasized the idea that poetry should not be a separate entity; it should be integrated into our daily lives. Her own work literally jumps off the page and into live performance.
“I sometimes spend hours trying to figure out if the past that I remember is the real past or merely something I’ve invented”. These words are straight from Diary of a Baby Diva, Holly’s collection of writings meant to be appreciated as theatrical performances. As seen by her diverse creative past, she always felt drawn to performance–based poetry. She was able to create her own role, and as she put it, “Writing my own show was a way for me to create meaningful work that wasn’t stereotypical or degrading”. Many poets tend to hide behind the anonymity of the page, but it seems Holly always saw herself as a performer, giving life to her stories. Theatrical poetry is not a new idea, but Holly certainly gives it a fresh spin.
Even with her inclination toward expression through spoken word, when asked for her advice to aspiring young writers, Holly stresses learning the old fashioned way: reading as much as possible. Watching poetry performed on YouTube is important, but also she reminds us, “there’s a risk of losing a connection to the literary legacy that laid the groundwork for what you do.” Everyone should experience the power of writing poetry, and she so eloquently references Caribbean-poet Audre Lorde who famously said, “Poetry is not a luxury”. And in honor of National Poetry month, every writer should take her advice: “Our culture likes to treat poetry as an elitist form. It’s not. It should be integrated into our daily lives, like music or water.”
Want more Holly Bass?
Holly offers performances and workshops for schools, businesses, public and private and events. Want to know when I’m performing next?
Check out http://www.hollybass.com for more info.