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|Photos courtesy of Outspoken Bean|
Up until recently, we were pretty well of the mindset that spoken-word poetry was basically, er... "wack" seems like the right word. We'd seen it on that show that Mos Def hosts a few times, and even sat through a bit of it at this open mic or that open mic, but essentially, we thought it to be the rollerblading of performance art: the only people interested in it were other people that were doing it.
But then we made our way to downtown's GrumBar about two weeks ago, and came across a spoken-word show featuring a few of the city's premier poets. (It was organized by a perfectly polite gentleman by the name of Black Snow, who is The Guy when it comes to promoting that sort of thing - the rollerblade king, if you will.) While there were a fair number of enjoyable performances, one act seemed to, from our vast knowledge of the art, kick all kinds of ass: Outspoken Bean.
He wasn't the booming, Afrocentric, beaded-up stereotype we had hoped for - he was a bit more demure - but he spoke with a certain assurance that, after only about 30seconds, made it pretty clear that he was someone important in the local performance-poetry scene.
We got some time with Bean - who used to go by "Outspoken," but added his true surname Bean to pay homage to his brother who passed last year. He was good-natured enough to answer every question we could think to ask.
Rocks Off: For those who aren't up to speed, can you explain the difference between a spoken-word poet and a slam poet? You're a slam poet, right? We hope so, because that sounds sooo much cooler.
Outspoken Bean: To be honest, a slam poet can't be a slam poet without being a spoken-word artist. The difference between the two is one gets judged by an audience - [a] slam poet - and one is just performing for the sake of performing, spoken-word. I coach slam poets and before they become a slam poet, they must be a good spoken-word artist first.
RO: Ah, so it's one of those Before You Learn To Fight, You've Gotta Let Me Drop Coconuts On Your Belly From High Up In A Tree things? You're like the old guy from Kickboxer, then? Do you look down on spoken-word poets? Like, they're pretty much the JV squad, right?
OB: No, not at all, because I am as well. It's still a craft that enjoy seeing in people.
RO: Tell me a bit about how one decides to become a slam poet. Seems an odd choice for a kid to dream about growing up.
OB: Ha! It usually stumbles on people. Last year, when I coached Prairie View's first Slam Team, it was six of us. Four out of the six had never slammed or cared about it. Now they're profound poets.
Slam is usually introduced to people, then they just have to have the courage to recite and deal with the scores they're given. I walked into a slam thinking it was an open mic. Ever since then I was bit by the bug.
RO: You know what we just realized? We've never known anyone that liked slam poetry that wasn't a slam poet. You guys are kinda like rollerbladers in that sense, except you dress cooler.
OB: Thanks, mayne. Not many people say I dress cool at all.
RO: Well, compared to a rollerblader, pretty much everyone dresses cool.
OB: I know a grip of people who are not poets and just support the craft of slam/spoken-word. Poetry Slam Inc. (PSI), College Union Poetry Slam Inc. (CUPSI), Indiviual World Poetry Slam (IWSP) would not exist if it wasn't for those people.
RO: How long does it take to write and learn a piece? And where does the inspiration come from? Is it Twilight? That movie is super gravy.
OB: Haven't seen Twilight
yet. You are the first person tell me it's good. It varies with me. From start to finish, proximately 3-5 weeks. That consists of testing it out, memorizing, editing, and a lot of other stuff. I'm never satisfied with the first copy.
RO: In your opinion, what is the most important line you've ever written?
OB: From the first group poem me and my first slam team wrote entitled "Regis." "B.S. Blvd. is a one-block street that meets a dead end/ Prosperity Road is hand-paved with gold/ Where I stand is where it begins" However, many people disagree with me, though [laughs].
RO: Can you talk a little bit about the performance-poetry scene? If someone wanted to get involved or check it out, how would they go about doing it?
OB: Just Show up to any poetry spot in the Greater Houston area. There's a few slams in the city. But the best way to get involved is to get involved. On my Web site there is a page dedicated to where poetry spots are in the city of Houston.
RO: Got anything you'd like to plug? Now's the time to do it.
OB: Much love goes to PV Poetry Community and Houston Poetry Community. And to Neo-KlazziK. I'm making poetry a full time gig so...BOOK ME! [laughs] But for real.
Get all the performance poetry information you need at www.outspokenbean.com or www.thefluentone.com.