Reviews for Spoken Word Revolution : Slam, Hip-Hop and the Poetry of a New Generation

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 April #4
Given that it documents an oral medium, this collection has to be judged mostly by its accompanying CD, with the print text secondary. Narrated with forced garrulousness by slam paterfamilias Mark Smith, the disc begins with an introduction from poet laureate Billy Collins, which gives way to a Quincy Troupe piece (with slick guitar accompaniment), filed under the odd designation "Beat Remnants." That term is also applied to decidedly nonperformance poets Edward Hirsch (who literally phones in a poem with correspondingly poor audio quality) and Marvin Bell, who gives an arid, audience-less studio performance. Things pick up with Slam star Saul Williams's pro performance and 1999 slam champion Roger Bonair-Agard's electrifying and often hilarious alphabetic poem. Of the 50 poets in the book, 20 make it onto the disc-which is 75 minutes long and features 46 cuts, a good third of them interjections from Smith. A few book-only poets, like Thomas Lux, offer essays or commentary rather than poems. Despite this collection's shortcomings, it should be seen as just one take on a various and magisterial art; its appearance heralds spoken word's further entry into the marketplace, a presence that should spread logarithmically over the coming years. Cognoscenti will grumble at this or that choice, and one might hope for a DVD next time, but as an introduction for neophytes, this package more or less gets the job done. (Apr.) Forecast: With a 20,000-copy initial printing, an NPR tour and the absence of competitors aiming at comprehensiveness, this should be able to grab market share. Look for it to dominate in the short-term, but for the next years to bring a sharpening of the market and robust competition. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. #