The Poetry of a New Generation
I am not quite a Generation X-er, and I'm definitely not a teenybopper anymore. I'm part of the hip-hop generation. I'm 24 years old and most Saturday nights I go to poetry readings. If you're visiting from out of town, you can go too. They're cheap -- about five bucks -- and they're not just any old sip tea, eat biscotti poetry readings.
This is the poetry of my generation. That was Sonia Whittle, a sassy twenty-six-year-old from New York City, with her funky mix of gospel and spoken word. The poem's about a welfare mother who puts all her faith in Jesus and gets nothing in return. Tonight's setting: Caribbean Spice, a cleared out, dimly lit restaurant stuffed with hundreds of folding chairs. But next week's event might be in a dingy warehouse with a makeshift stage and a totally different crowd. Like the night a local poet Big Poppa E mimicked his girlfriend in front of hundreds of people.
It was funny to hear a man's perspective on male bashing. And there's plenty of it at these events. Listen up, female tourists, that's the best part. I remember my first open mic event. This slight, framed girl came to the microphone, eyes closed. I thought, "She must be so nervous, she can't even look into the audience."
But as soon as she opened her eyes, she started going off on her man who had called her the B-word. Her poem made me shout in agreement, laugh, and think. It inspired two or three poems of my own. But I'm one of those regulars who never gets up on stage. I'm too shy. I don't get near the sign-in list where anybody -- local or out-of-towner -- can write their name and wait their turn to pour their heart out in front of everyone.
Nineteen-year-old Ariana Wayans was one of those brave souls. Her poem led us through a wild night with a truck driver.
These nights are intimate. The crowd is welcoming, like family. Anyone would be comfortable here -- gay, straight, white, black, hippie chicks and conservative suits -- it doesn't matter. And sometimes, the crowd becomes a part of the performance.
Okay, you might think we're a bunch of post-beatnik artsy types, but we're not. We're just regular folks. We go to college, keep day jobs. And if you're visiting the Bay Area and want a window into our community, come to one of these poetry evenings. You might even find out what's going on around town, like political protests, new legislation and of course, where the next spoken word event will be on Saturday night.
In Berkeley, I'm Jacinda Abcarian for The Savvy Traveler.
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