'Brave New Voices'
If there is one concept that we'd have bet against, it would be that a network would greenlight a show featuring spoken-word poetry. It's barely one level above watching grass grow. And yet, Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices, airing Sundays on HBO, is a terrific combination of talent, hope and drama masking the fact that words plus television equals boring. Still, it's great to know that some kids are still literate and can muster the occasional haiku. So if you appreciate words and smart kids, spell-check the invitations; we're throwing a party!
Setting the scene:
If you've never been to a poetry slam, you've missed one of life's great challenges -- the challenge being that sometimes it's hard to get the waitress' attention without causing a sonnet disruption. You'll need a small stage with a microphone stand in front of walls painted to look like brick. (Poorly lit fake brick adds an air of despair that poets love.) Add a music stand for performers' notes. Encourage guests to write a piece on a topic you suggest on their invitation. Remember, they don't all have to be serious: Team San Francisco's Mike Taylor is all about humor. For more information on poetry slams, check out sites such as PoetrySlam.com, Poets.org, Slampapi.com or YouthSpeaks.org. Party favors can include everything from Mark Eleveld's book "The Spoken Word Revolution Redux" to the DVD "Slam Nation: The Sport of Spoken Word" to poetry-related T-shirts.
Who are we to confine your creativity by telling you what to wear? But if you don't show up in baggy corduroy pants with a studded belt and an ironic graphic T-shirt, your words will fall on deaf ears.
On the menu:
Thought times have changed, the original beatniks lent themselves to a diet of tofu and sprouts. Then again, we'd rather have alphabet soup and SpaghettiOs.
On the hi-fi:
Queen Latifah narrates the show, so why not sample some of "All Hail the Queen" and "The Dana Owens Project"? But a celebration of the spoken word can't be fully expressed until you break out the Shatner. So order a copy of "The Transformed Man," and get down to business.
Think you've got poetry that can stand the test of time? Why not have your words carved into a huge slab of granite? Contact granite sculptor Eric Oberg of Calais, Vt., and have him quote you a price on immortality. He probably charges by the letter, so be succinct.