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

AudioFile Reviews 2003 October/November
Slam poetry. Hip hop. Performance art. And their bedeviled ancestors--the Beat Poets. All had one thing in common. They all wanted to get poetry out of the lecture halls and into the streets. This text-sized volume and accompanying CD offer some solid examples, context, and a frenetic history of what narrator Marc Smith calls the "democrazation" of poetry. Smith knows of what he speaks, having arranged and participated in the earliest slam performances in Chicago in the late 1980s. These days slam competitions are held worldwide. Reciting a poem out loud is one of our most ancient and honored oral traditions. What those "deep in the scene" want you to know is that standing up, commanding an audience to listen, and artfully baring one's soul is still important--and still works. B.P. (c) AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine

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. #