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'Stand Up Poetry' Is Distinct From Performance Poetry

January 10, 1991

Thanks to you and Rose Apodaca for the feature "Poetry in Motion" ("Readings, Writings and Libations," OC LIVE!, Nov. 15). . . . I would like to straighten out one important misconception, however. My anthology, "Stand Up Poetry," does not document the "live poetry phenomenon." It documents a type of Los Angeles poetry characterized by, among nine other attributes, performability. (Other attributes include humor, flights of fancy, natural language, wide-open subject matters, a close relationship to fiction, a strong individual voice, use of urban and pop culture and willingness to take risks.) This poetry started to arise in the 1970s, and--moving out from Los Angeles--has become one of the most important styles of poetry in the country.

The poets in my anthology often have stage experience as actors and/or musicians and are often excellent performers of their poetry. But they are writers first, performers second.

Performance poetry, as I see it, is more a 50-50 mix of poetry and performance. This may seem like a small distinction, but it is Stand Up Poetry, not performance poetry, about which I stated that it "still works on the page and is just as open to analysis and deep reading" as is poetry of the current "establishment."

CHARLES WEBB

Associate Professor of English

Cal State Long Beach

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