My interview with Jamaal May was jam-packed, as those of you who already read the full interview transcript know. For those who have a bit less time, this post dives into some of the topics we discussed that I found to be most interesting. We did the interview over instant messaging, so what you’re seeing is 99% exact on what was said.
If you don’t already know who Jamaal May is, check out my spotlight page on him. If you do already know him, be sure you subscribe to his various platforms. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for links.)
Highlights from the Interview with Jamaal May
Here are my personal highlights from the interview: page vs stage poetry, liminal spaces, poetic torque, the purpose of art, and definitions of poetry.
Page vs Stage Poetry
Core takeaways: Page and stage poetry are wildly different beasts, but working within the strictures of traditional form can improve one’s sense of the musicality of language and otherwise empower stage poetry by stripping away the devices sometimes found in the genre.
Rob D Young: You work in a territory that often crosses, blurs, or rejects the lines between poetry of the stage and poetry of the page. Your video of “I do have a seam” is a wonderful example of this.
What are your thoughts on working in these different forms and contexts?
Jamaal May: […] The page became an important goal for me because I realized what I could do in slam was limited by the format in some ways. I was fortunate enough to recognize early that slam had a ceiling and that I’d have to be proactive about learning more about the field of poetry as a whole.
This page contains a full transcript of my interview with Jamaal May. We did the interview over instant messaging, so what you’re seeing is 99% exact on what was said. (The exceptions are minor typo corrections and a couple places where I re-grouped comments for the sake of clarity.)
If you don’t have time to read the full interview right now, I encourage you to check out my interview highlights.
Rob D Young: This is Rob D Young doing a chat interview today with award-winning (and truly bad-ass) performance poet Jamaal May. Let’s start with some of your basic FAQs.
First of all, I’d love your “summed up” version of yourself. Care to give an introduction?
Jamaal May: That’s kind of thing is always tricky since the overall goal of the art I make is to resist summary. The easier something is to summarize, the more limited it feels. So maybe that’s a way to sum me up: I try to move towards expansiveness. But I suppose my answer is supposed to be something less existential and along the lines of I’m a poet and performer and educator and editor from Detroit who dabbles in graphic design, music, and now photography and film.
Jamaal is a poet of both the stage and page. His background (which starts with “Detroiter” but extends to the point of breaking borders, breaking until borders extend) has given him a compelling voice loaded with a power that bridges the gap between raw and refined.
Since I’ve had trouble finding the full text of Seamus Heaney’s “Punishment” elsewhere on the web, I decided to transcribe it here. I’m pulling this directly from his poetry collection titled North, which you can buy here.
I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.
I remember the curious faux-gold cover of my family’s 50th anniversary edition of The Hobbit, the curious incomprehensibility of the runes across the surface. I was familiar with the story of The Hobbit from before I could read at all (thanks to the animated movie), and reading the book itself was inevitable.
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit‘s release, I’ve re-visited the story. Now as then, it was a pleasant, easygoing read that launched me into a world that mixed equal parts fantasy and danger.
The Hobbit is a highly accessible adventure that mixes a powerfully constructed macro level (the plot is great, the world is enthralling) with a gritty sense of micro level (the everyday struggles faced by the cast). The balance between these two poles makes the book simultaneously relate-able and fantastic.
The narration is charming, the dialogue memorable, and the work itself founded a genre. If you haven’t read The Hobbit, you kind of have to. If you read it when you were young, it’s well worth re-visiting.
Today, we’re going to take a look at slant rhymes in action with the help of our good friends (and my life’s recent Godsend) Mumford and Sons. The resonant opening lines of their song “Blank White Page” calls attention to the potential power of imperfect rhymes. Listen to the lines and skip past the break to delve oceans deep into this topic.