For a quite while I have been struggling with how to describe myself as a poet.
People are perhaps familiar with the terms “performance poet” or “page poet” and then there are the “slam poets” and those with specific styles like “punk poets” or “beat poets”.
When I refer to myself as a “poet” people invariably ask me what I do. Well of course I can say that I write poetry but of course I do more; but do I perform?
Reading at Eroica 2016
In essence I feel that performance has an element of putting on a persona, or being something different from what you are when you are away from the stage or microphone – it conveys an element of acting. I realised that when I’m in front of an audience or a microphone I’m not acting. What the audience gets is me, Seamus Kelly the poet, telling you things in my own words, with my own emotions and with my own character; the same one you’d find if you talk to me about art, politics or bike racing. It isn’t a performance and I’m fairly clear that I’m not a performance poet.
As for being a “slam poet” I’d not count myself in that group, I’ve done a couple; but over a period of over 10 years I don’t think that qualifies me as a slam poet.
I do write poetry on some sort of page, in a notebook, on a computer, on a tablet and a couple of times on a phone and I’ve turned some of them into a collection in the form of a book for people to read. So all my poetry exists on the page but far more people have heard my poems from my lips than have read them on a page so I’m pretty sure I can’t really be a page poet.
Pictured after the show at Roche Valley Radio
I’m certainly neither a punk poet or a beat poet.
So what kind of poet am I?
It might seem strange to be vexed by such a question but I know that others have the same dilemma and some very well known poets have had issues around being categorised as performance poets when they are just being themselves and not putting on an act. This has actually exercised my mind on and off for some considerable time but today I think I’ve come up with the answer.
Set list for Eroica 2016
What kind of poet am I?
I am happy to define myself as a “live poet” – that means you can see or hear me read, recite, whisper, shout or otherwise vocalise my poems in my own voice, with my own personality, my own character and no acting. What you see and hear is “live poetry”
Next time I’m asked I know what to say:
“Seamus Kelly, Live Poet!”
Comments and questions very welcome….