I was sitting in a poetry workshop recently at Haven for Hope when an older gentleman with a notebook and pen in hand cautiously walked in and sat down. When questioned if he would like to share some of his writing, he quietly replied, “I just came to watch. I don’t know how to write poetry.”
“Perfect! Neither do any of us!” said the leader of the workshop.
Everyone is reluctantly familiar with poetry. We are forced to read it in school and subsequently hate it later in life because it is structured, complicated and written by old white men. The Blah Blah Blah Poetry Initiative (Bx3) isn’t that. At all. Comprised of about two handfuls of artists loosely defined as poets, we teach expression. We teach communication, understanding and how to recognize beauty in all stories a person has to tell.
The man that came to watch, for example, eventually shared that he had been blamed by his family for the accidental death of his uncle for over 30 years. He said, “Every time I tell someone my story I feel a little of the guilt lift off of my shoulders.” Everyone in the room was visibly affected by what he shared. That is poetry.
On March 30, as San Anto Cultural Arts staff and supporters celebrate the unveiling of the much anticipated paleta bike rack, The Bx3 Poetry Initiative will ready San Anto’s patio for our own event that is taking place on the same day, “Voces de La Calle” (Voices of the Street).
San Anto is generously donating their space to our group of misfits to raise the $350 needed to apply for our 501(c)3 nonprofit status. We will sell food, raffle goodies and invite the community to share in the celebration of an art form known as slam poetry. While Bx3 seeks to promote all forms of the written word, slam poetry is undoubtedly our forte.
“It is free therapy; an art form almost entirely devoid of law and structure. You get to say whatever is on your mind in any way you want and let go of whatever you are holding onto,” said Rayner Shyne, one of Blah’s founding members.
When competing, slam has a few rules, but it is generally a type of poetry that emphasizes performance. It has hip hop roots and was popularized on the HBO series: Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, see video below. (Warning: Some explicit language).
Still confused? Check out Christopher “Rooster” Martinez, a Bx3 founding member, speak about slam poetry and demonstrate his skills for an interview with RAW: natural born artists, an independent arts organization:
Bx3 was founded in January of 2011 with a mission to share, collaborate, teach, develop and promote the literary endeavors of the many different voices in San Antonio. To date, we have held free poetry workshops in collaboration with Good Samaritan, Haven for Hope, Fort Sam Houston Youth Center and Fresh Ink Youth Slam to name a few.
As an organization, we see a void in San Antonio. Support for the written word is not strong and support for slam poetry is near nonexistent. As a city, we have the potential to reach the creative level of places such as Austin or L.A. or Chicago, but we need to push ourselves further in order to create an acceptance and a culture with more artistic emphasis.
The Bx3 Poetry Initiative often considers what we do ranting. Or raving. Or yelling most days, but is truly about listening and gaining something from the words of others. Every member of our group comes from a different walk of life.
“In San Antonio, we’ve felt more marginalized as a group of artists than we’d like to. That isn’t a statement to garner sympathy, but rather the start of a promise,” Martinez said. “In the many steps and missteps we’ve taken, the feeling is that we are now at a crucial point to pass along what we have learned.”
We have different backgrounds, skin tones and genders but somehow all find shelter under this umbrella of self-expression and hope to inspire others to huddle together with us.
For more information about “Voces de La Calle” please visit our Facebook event page.
Can’t make it but would still like to contribute? Visit our Fundrazr page.
Melanie Robinson, a regular arts and culture contributor to the Rivard Report, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in December 2011. Her current Marketing position at the local nonprofit organization ARTS San Antonio has afforded her the opportunity to further explore her love of the arts. She spends her nights among local musicians, artists and poets – finding beauty in self-expression. You can contact Melanie through her Facebook.