Poets and musicians search for a happy intersection in second edition of newborn showcase
Music and poetry have long entwined.
It’s a connection that bleeds into language — take the Welsh word cerdd, for instance, which can translate to either “music” or “poem” — as well as both art forms. In 2016, the Swedish Academy awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature for creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Meanwhile, poet, cultural critic and sometimes Alive contributor Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib frequently references popular music in his verse as a means of bringing people “closer to harder conversations,” as the Columbus native explained in a recent conference call with rapper Dominique Larue. (The two perform alongside poets Zara Resisting and Madison Gibbs and musicians Counterfeit Madison and Jacoti Sommes as part of the second Word to the Wise showcase at Kafe Kerouac on Saturday, Feb. 25.)
“A lot of my poems sit at the intersection of music and race and violence and gentrification, and I can get people to enter poems they might not normally enter if there's a pop culture reference they're comfortable with, or if there's a musician I can kind of pull threads from to speak to a larger narrative,” said Willis-Abdurraqib, who has penned poems with titles like “Ode To Drake, Ending With Blood In A Field” and “Newport Music Hall, 2001.”
Larue — currently recovering from a broken foot earned in a slip that took place the same January evening she shared the stage with Nes Wordz at the Alive Bands to Watch concert — said the event offers a chance to share her music both with an audience and in a space that are somewhat unfamiliar.
“It's going to be a different vibe, and something I've never done before, so I might be a little bit nervous because I'm going out of my comfort zone,” she said. In turn, the MC will be taking a comparatively reserved, “VH1 Storytellers”-like approach to the night, pairing songs with tales of their creation. (The more laid-back approach is further fueled by the boot she’s forced to wear to protect her fractured ankle.)
For Willis-Abdurraqib, the event offers some respite from the academic settings he’s appeared in most recently, as well as a chance to reconnect with his artistic roots.
“I've been doing a lot of readings behind podiums and readings in more stuffy settings, but at the core I came up in Columbus' performance poetry scene,” he said. “So I was excited about this idea of … sharing the stage with musicians who are bringing an audience to life in a different way than words can. It's seeing if there's a happy intersection there.”