Dueling poetry styles

at BPL show on April 19

by Heather Bremner

(From Benicia Herald, 4/10/2002)

When Blake More and Tony Seymour first met they were two very different people with polar opposite backgrounds, amazed at the way their poems somehow met on a common ground.

After discussing their frustration with the isolation and intellectual superiority of coffee house poetry – where poets read to an audience of poets – they decided to see if they could take their poetry out into the mainstream.

Last year the two poets combined their work to create a poetry dialogue play titled “Godzilla verses Swan bLake” which they will perform at the Benicia Public Library on April 19th from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

The title refers to their different styles of delivery and how their poetry relates in a very unconventional way.

“We want to expand the range that our audiences experience,” said More. “The extremes we each hit in our poetry counterbalance each other. So if he says something that might seem sexist or offensive to a woman, I’ll come back with something that might evoke a similar outrage in a man. So we neutralize the message, just bring up ideas and feelings that people talk—or don’t—about. It sounds like a conversation in which we are addressing each other because the poems fit together so well.

Seymour, 50, the author of “Evolution of a Soul” a 1021 page collection of poetry, and More, 36, who has written two non-fiction books, two books of poetry, three plays and numerous short fiction pieces, first met when they appeared together on “The Alchemy of The Word” a recording of a CD compilation of San Francisco poets. Immediately drawn to each other’s work and presentation style, they began sending each other poems and recordings.

When they realized that their differences in age, lifestyle and attitudes created a mÈlange of unique thought, they decided to produce a nouveau style of poetic delivery. Structured as a conversation, “Godzilla verses Swan bLake” uses similar imagery yet the two poets approach their subjects from different perspectives. 

“I have what I call a ‘zap rap’ style,” says Seymour. “It’s a really fired up delivery, while Blake’s is slower.  Blake’s is like vodka and mine is a mixer.”

The show was first performed last year at Bird & Beckett, a bookstore in San Francisco. Since they have performed in cafes, nightclubs, theaters, and libraries around the Bay Area and, most recently, in New Orleans, LA for a Mardi Gras performance tour.

While responses have varied, Seymour says most of their audiences respond favorably, some people have even told the duo “you restore our faith in poetry.”

“People have been turned off from poetry cause tons of poetry is published but not that much is good, deep poetry,” he says. “Most of it is people using poetry to show their daily lives, so too often there’s a lack of alliteration or metaphor.”

Seymour who lives in San Francisco and bases his poetry on the rhythm of sound, what he calls “intra-sylabilistic rhyming”, is particularly peeved by the majority of poetry published today, poetry that he believes seldom delves deeply into an issue.

He spent his younger years in the 1970s hanging out with San Francisco beatniks, such as poet Bob Kaufman, who helped him get in touch with his deeper side, something he hopes to pass on to another generation.

They were in their 50s and I was in my 20s and I started to hang out with these cats,” said Seymour. “Like the Renaissance, I decided to learn my craft from the older generation who invented it. With Blake, I’m doing the same.”

More left the city life of San Francisco in 1996 and has since lived on the Mendocino Coast. While living in San Francisco, she often read at various venues in North Beach and at cafes and clubs in the Bay Area. Her original solo performance pieces and ensemble plays have also appeared on stages in Tokyo and Los Angeles. She teaches poetry through the California Poets in the Schools program and drama for the Gualala Arts Center.

The Benicia Public Library is located at 150 E. L Street. For more information call 707-746-4343.



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