Friday, April 20, 2007

Reader's Diary #256- Oni The Haitian Sensation: Ghettostocracy (up to "Love Letter To My Boo")

Oni, a spoken word poet currently living in Ottawa, seems to have a lot of fans; George Elliott Clarke, the Ottawa Express, the CBC and others. Reading the reviews, there seems to be some sort of consensus that Oni is some sort of super woman with the personality of a hurricane. Reading her work- which is heavily infused with ego- I'm not sure if Oni herself didn't start that rumour. Tell people you're great and they'll believe it. But is she?

It's hard to say of course, I'm not sure if spoken word translates well to paper. Funny really, since plenty of people would argue (I'm not one of them) that poetry should be an oral tradition anyway. Still, I think the book does give me a sense of what she would be like to hear in person. Attempts are made to show the style she'd inject. For instance, in the title poem, descriptors like "tyrannical voice" and "jazzy voice" lead into specific stanzas. But without listening to it out loud, it's only as good as your imagination. And since mine is in good working order, if I do say so myself, I'm enjoying it.

I love the energy. Lines typically are filled with bursts of alliteration and the rhymes practically fall over one another. Obviously, they're also fun. Despite having "ghetto" themes; racist cops, teenage pregnancies, poverty, drugs, violence and so forth, Oni takes a hard-edged, above-all-that sort of attitude and tries very hard to be uber-hip, cracking flippant jokes and pop-culture references into the mix like a music channel commercial. I'm a little afraid that it will wear thin before too long, but for now it feels like a beat poetry revival and I'm enjoying it.

11 comments:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm rather intrigued, as part of this sound really suspect (ie her ego, the reference to a music channel commercial), but it sounds like the energy and hipness are quite refreshing. Interesting mix.

John Mutford said...

As you can probably gather, I'm still a little undecided.

Allison said...

A beat poetry revival, never a bad thing, in my opinion. This week I actually uncovered my first year uni English notes from a lecture on beat poetry.

This definitely sounds like an interesting read, I've heard rumblings of her (I think on the cbc), look forward to more of your thoughts.

John Mutford said...

Again, I'm not sure. While I did appreciate some aspects of beat literature, I thought "Howl" and "On The Road" were a little over-rated (gasp!). Again, I thought much of the scene was self-created hype. Still, that it had a recognizable style, feel and had specific concerns was interesting and refreshing.

Fearless said...

I agree, John, I think On the Road and Howl are overrated too. I much prefer Dharma Bums to On the Road and why does everyone talk about Naked Lunch and not Junky which is far superior??

Dale said...

Hearing an author read their own writing can be so different even with a working imagination (mine's part time) so I think I might need to hear it aloud. Will you be audio blogging your tyrannical and jazzy voices?

John Mutford said...

Fearless, You're far more knowledgable about beat lit than I! I hadn't read any of the others that you had mentioned. "Naked Lunch" has been on my to-read-list for quite some time, but maybe I should just go for "Junky" first.

Dale,
Thank your lucky stars that I'm afraid of the copyright police. Otherwise, you'd might find podcasts of me reciting Oni's "Smart Black Girl" or "Where's My Period?" and trust me, you don't want that.

John Mutford said...

Getting even more off topic, upon reading Fearless's comment, I went and googled poems by William S. Burroughs. I knew I had liked some, but couldn't remember which ones they were. Then I came across his "A Thanksgiving Day Prayer". I think the chorus of Akira The Don's "Thanks For All The Aids" owes a little to it. Anyone agree?

Dale said...

I've always been a little if not frightened, wary of William S. Burroughs. My introduction to him was on recordings with Laurie Anderson and more recently Bubs over at Sprawling Ramshackle Compound pointed me to his work with John Giorno and Ms. Anderson. The A Thanksgiving Day Prayer is brilliant though and I see the comparison with the Akira the Don song.

Oh no, I'm learning again, aiieee.

Fearless said...

Shortly after high school I went on a beat kick and my sister made me tapes of Burroughs audio recordings and one of them has my favorite Burroughs quote of all time on it...

"Screw you, Mr. Whoever-Is-Responsible"

Reading his Thanksgiving Prayer reminded me of that.

John Mutford said...

Dale and Fearless, I hadn't listened to Burroughs before, so I went digging and found this little gem at YouTube. Now that's bitter!