Spoken word legends rejuvenate poetry

Three members of the Elephant Engine High Dive Revival, a spoken word collective consisting of several poets who have revolutionized their art form, graced campus with their presence on Tuesday.

The 8 p.m. KnightSpot headliners consisted of Buddy Wakefield, Andrea Gibson and Derrick Brown, all names legendary to the slam poetry world and associated with the highest awards and honors in it. Usual members Shira Erlichman and Anis Mojgani were unable to attend due to illness and scheduling conflicts, respectively.

According to Wakefield, the Revival itself is an opportunity for the poets to "feed off each other the way I think athletic teams might. We up each others' game." Even without its missing members, the Revival was self-sustaining.

All three recited their own original works, which were deeply intuitive and thought-provoking. Wakefield consistently reminded the audience that the affair was an experience rather than a show - a cathartic one that opened its intensity to all present.

Through all of the heavy revival, though, the poets offered many moments of comic relief, including a "short poems" segment and trivia about the group that was fueled in self-humiliation. Wakefield's material itself blended conversational humor with sober and straight-up, hard-hitting slam poetry.

Brown brought his experimental style, which relies a great deal on music and inflection, and a sense of direction and cohesiveness to the group. His ordinarily standout work, while highly regarded in its own right, was diminished on Tuesday night somewhat by the presence of his work on paper in front of him and especially by the particularly outstanding performance given by Gibson.

The audience was extraordinarily responsive to each of her flawless recitations. Despite a self-proclaimed case of stage fright, Gibson executed each piece expertly. She said that what she strives for in her poetry is "having the poem exist before you do" - a phenomenon that she somehow achieved on the stage.

In addition to putting on a spectacular display of poetry, comedy and music fused with words, the group took the time to get a feel for Geneseo by holding a "workshop," as well as offering Geneseo's very own slam poets the opportunity to open for them.

The workshop functioned more like a conversation, during which all three remarkably articulate individuals shared stories and insights with attendees, who were casually given the opportunity to answer questions.

Brown discussed the different aspects of his career, specifically Write Bloody Publishing, his own small press business. "I've learned a lot from discipline," Brown said of both his practical and artistic pursuits. As a written-word publisher, he also noted that what he loves is "someone who busted their ass to make the page shine and then the icing on the cake is their performance."

Geneseo slam poets, juniors Ingamar Ramirez and Deborah Bertlesman, as well as freshman Patrick "Patches" Burke, all performed a poem from their repertoire to start off the evening. Their impressive work indicates both the future of spoken word at Geneseo and in larger contexts.

The Elephant Engine High Dive Revival came to Geneseo in part through the support of the English Club and Office of Multicultural Affairs, but the credit for their appearance is due to Ramirez, who single-handedly organized the event.