“There’s nothing to do here…” might be the way some start a sentence about the nightlife in their city, but for those who are in “the know”, you’ll find that in cities like Buffalo, NY, the arts scene is often more active than the typical nightlife. With so much growth in the surrounding areas and the major developments of Canalside, there are in fact a large number of things to do in any given week. There is always an opportunity to fall in love with a new art form by hitting the streets and attending events such as the Living Poet Society: Harvest Moon, which took place on Friday, November 20th, at Shea’s Smith Theater.
We’ve been following this group for quite some time now as they continue to grow their following, completely filling up and captivating the Shea’s Smith Theatre.
Among the many poets to hit the stage were: Co-founders TeamFinks and Ben Bridise, as well as, Amani Olugbala, Autumn Christine Louise Bradley, Bassam, Bianca L. McGraw, Brandon Williamson, Justin Karcher, Shaq AoR Payne, and Ten Thousand.
We caught up with a few of the poets including one of the founders, “TeamFinks” whose style manages to give us a lesson across many subjects.
Tell me how the Living Poet Society, or LiPS began.
The idea started March of 2014. I wanted to create an event that featured top notch spoken word poetry with an elegant ‘night on the town’ feel to it. I held a meeting and reached out to as many poets as I could find. Out of 15 or so that showed, Ben Brindise and Solomon Dixon connected with my ideas the most..the three of us continued to toss ideas around for a few days, and within a week of that meeting LiPS was born.
How often are your events held?
We are a bi-annual showcase
What is your overall goal with these events?
Our overall goal is to develop LiPS into a Non-profit organization focused on spreading the reach of Poetry and Literature throughout Buffalo NY – also spreading awareness of the many subjects and lessons that can be taught through poetry such as English, creative writing, public speaking, self expression, science, math, politics etc.
You are quite the wordsmith! You deliver with such finesse that not only are you entertaining, but you made us think and your delivery is almost conversational! Tell us a little about your own style, where you got your start, and how you came to be a Poet.
My personal writing and performance style is based on wordplay and extreme use of various literary techniques while conveying a message of power through knowledge and self expression. I first began writing in 2013 when urged by a friend that was impressed with my freestyle rapping ability. I soon discovered a natural gift with words and wordplay and I began to harness and practice through hip-hop. Early 2014, I was invited to do poetry for a local showcase where I just recited songs from my previous portfolio. In awe of the reception I received, I decided to begin to write spoken word poetry, created LiPS a month later, and won my first Pure Ink Poetry Slam title the month after and it’s history from there.
Co-founder Ben Brindise, a poet who has performed with StreetPoetz in the past, was gracious enough to answer some questions for us as well.
It’s been a little over two years since you performed at the StreetPoetz launch event. Tell us how you have evolved from then to now.
StreetPoetz in 2013, was only the third event I had ever participated in. I was brand new to the stage and it was a great opportunity that helped me to decide poetry was something I wanted to pursue. Since then, I’ve published my first chapbook I Was a Lid, co-founded Living Poet Society, qualified for Buffalo’s national poetry slam team that represented Buffalo in Oakland, Ca, and was voted 2015 Best Poet and Best Local Writer in Artvoice’s Best of Buffalo awards. It’s been quite a process moving from looking for opportunities to be able to help create them for other artists. I’ve also become a volunteer at the Just Buffalo Writing Center and work with the youth there every Tuesday and Thursday.
What do you enjoy most about LiPS?
Two things. The first is being able to provide a platform for local poets to perform and get paid for their work, as well as providing them an upscale treatment like any other touring artist. Secondly, seeing the brand move from being just a repeating show, to an organization that will provide youth workshops and avenues for youth writers to enter their local literary community in 2016.
Poetry certainly knows no bounds when it comes to subject matter and these poets dug deep into their creativity. Our emotions were challenged and we were forced to do more than just observe. These poets made you ponder, discover, laugh, and even shed a tear or two touching upon a number of subjects ranging from food, to illness, and real life issues.
Poet Bassam, of Brampton, Ontario, talked about a Baconspiracy in a poem he titled with that very name. He comically touched upon the delicate subject for those who possess that bacon craving, receiving head nods, and that all too knowing cheer as many audience members related to the infinite possibilities of … yes… bacon! Because you never truly know the reason someone chooses a topic, we decided to reach out and spoke with Bassam to get a little insight into this comedic piece.
Can you tell me what your inspiration was behind creating this piece?
My motivation was that, because I don’t consume any pork, I noticed that everyone was heavily obsessed with bacon. I felt that it was slowly invading all types of culture, so I created a satire piece to speak to those that we should be warned that it could take over the world.
It’s quite evident that from the audience’s reactions that there were more than a few with a bacon addiction.
Well it’s always about spreading awareness, even in those who partake. I like to think that my poem represents the mother of all slippery slopes, perhaps lubricated with bacon grease.
Can you tell us about other subjects you find yourself writing about?
I write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with social justice and solidarity against apartheid and for Palestinian human rights, about systemic racism and white supremacy, about body image awareness and eating disorders, I also write about mental health and depression, all subjects that hit close to home for me as a queer Jewish Arab feminist/body positive activist.
Poet Bianca L. McGraw took a different approach when she took us through erotic mathematics, merging classroom equations with a real life
experience that can effect women all over. Her words were fierce and unforgiving and we were treated to a twist that made you realize that being a victim is often disguised by the actions and ways people see you. Her flawless delivery made you realize that it’s all too easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the coin.
You never quite know what to expect when Poets hit the stage, but one things you can always count on when it comes to poetry is your audience. A poetry audience is like no other around. This is a Poet’s moment to be free, to express, and to be forgiven without judgment, even when your moment goes silent.
Poet Autumn Bradley, who hails from Jamestown, NY, showed us in her moments on stage, that we truly were among friends! Bradley delivered an emotional and personal piece that spoke to everyone who has ever been touched by illness. The silence, as we patiently waited, kept us on the edge of our seats and through tears, she showed just how emotional poetry can be. Autumn notes,
The name of the piece is Battle Wounds. I had lots of thoughts, mostly my memories of fighting cancer. It was an extremely emotional time for my whole family so those feelings tend to seep through in my performance, but that’s what makes it special to me.
The audience seemed to hang on your every word. How did you feel about the audience’s reaction as you moved bravely through this piece?
The audience was so supportive and continued to cheer me on even during my time of silence to gather my thoughts. If it wasn’t for their positive reactions, I’m not sure I would have powered through my performance. They reminded me that I was performing for them and I was able to finish strongly because of that. Over all there were great vibes and I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd.
We heard poetry, a performance by musical guests “The States“, and just when you thought that you had experienced it all, Poet Lazyrus partnered with designer Emily Lyons merging poetry and fashion. Lazyrus delivered a sensual, and empowering piece along with beautiful models: Ash A-Leyy N, Bridget O’Brien, Kei Om, Megan T. Marie Legacy, Samantha Pierce, Samaria Thomas, and Shanika Lashay Williams.
While we weren’t able to catch all of the performances, its evident that the poetry community is growing and groups just like LiPS are helping to spread awareness, provide opportunities, and build a different type of nightlife. We experienced comedy, seduction, confidence and even fear last Friday, and what we also learned is that poetry instills bravery in both performers and patrons. Whether taking the stage and fighting through emotions, or being inspired to step past your fears – this could not have been conveyed better than Poet Brandon Williamson, who inspires an important life lesson before leaving the stage by reminding us to “…Shuffle the deck, lock eyes with your partner, and begin”
If you attended the event, be sure to comment below!