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poetry passports

filed 5 December 2005 | Phoenix
by Jason Davis

What would happen to the ecology of open mic readings if poets and MCs embraced the idea of a "poetry passport"? Would it be just a souvenir? Or could it be a vehicle to encourage broader aural literacy among new writers? Jason Davis, an experienced poetry host, gives it some thought and relates his ideas.

Several months or so ago I sat down with one of the poets after the reading and we hashed out a fairly strange... almost campy idea to encourage more poets to attend different venues around Phoenix.

Essentially this is the creation of the poetry passport which may be anything from a blank peice of paper, on to a special journal or a little, specially made, chap-book-style book.

As the only requirement is a rubber stamp by the venue, I became instantly infatuated with the concept. It's cheap. I've started dreaming of heading to some of those legendary poetry readings across the country... the ones the travelling poets and transplants speak of when they visit... and there, having the host take my passport as I came up to read, stamping it with a heavy hand and passing it back to me after I'd performed.

As a host, I see in this the extra opportunity for a private word of encouragement and a lever to get (a new crop of) poets better trained. Starting in January, when I come across a poet I want to give their first thirty minute feature, I'm going to require they get stamps from at least two other poetry venues.

As a poet, I can see how having a thick passport filled with a large variety of poetry readings can help get me more feature spots at
As a host, I could also just ask for the passport when I'm booking on the spot, note those locations and include everything in the email or print blurb.
other venues. Not to mention help me remember where I've performed. Maybe something to show the kids when they are older to inspire them to write, read and perform poetry. Before I tell them how their daddy participated in da poetry revolution.

That long list really offers a lot to the non-poetry communities as well. They may not understand living poets, they may be stigmatized by horrible interpetations of what poetry is. But they do understand experience, and a news reporter needs content, noting something like, "Johhny Doe has performed at a plethora o' poetry readings in Metropolitan Phoenix, including the infamous <insert your venue here> where for some reason the poets have donned upon him the additional almost asinine alias Toe-tagger. The other venues like yada, yada yada and yada just call him John."

As a host, I could also just ask for the passport when I'm booking on the spot, note those locations and include everything in the email or print blurb. Hell if only I had enough money to buy one of those camera phones... if the passport had a photo I could snatch it on the fly. Get everything done in a super flash and head back to seducing the red headed chick in the corner.

Yet most importantly, beyond all else is the sheer devastation of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt... that one's poetry... really is horrible, and the presentation and performance of it gawd-awful. That your girlfriend is going to leave you for the chunky smiling brunette who with a few words touched her more deeply then you ever have. Happily this happens almost every time a poet goes to a new reading. Or at least it should.

In any case I've decided to do it, I have a rubber stamp bumping around in the mail on it's way. A first draft of a venue specific passport already finished up, including monthly themes, explanations of our traditional games, slots to fill in monthly features and nice round circles to use that stamp on.

I've got no compunctions to the understanding that I'm doing this mostly for myself... ideas really turn me on. This idea more so then most. If it's turned you on at all I hope it might inspire you to get yourself your own rubber stamp. Encourage your local parasites to attend poetry readings like hungry hyenas and thereby just maybe save the world.

Hell I'm just going to read this tomorrow night. copyright © 1999-2016 e-poets network
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