a cork board


Clique-Clique Poetry
PMpTue, 23 Nov 2010 13:47:19 +000047Tuesday 1, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: the ether, the mirror

I hate cliques. I always have and I’m pretty sure I always will. I have never fit into any clique. And right about now, at this point in my life,  I’m pretty damn sure cliques can kiss the darkest part of my ass.

In middle school I was not a cool kid; not a metal-head, not a nerd, not an athlete, not quite an outcast…but I teetered right in between a lot of them. When I watched Napoleon Dynamite and saw him hitting the tetherball by himself I couldn’t help but think of me. I was good at tetherball, but kids never wanted to play with me. So I would often end up hitting the good ole’ ball on a rope by my damn-self. I moved to Margate, Florida and skimmed the edges of social hierarchies. Then my dad home-schooled me, so high school was not even an option. But even in college and in my small circle of friends, I never belonged to a clique.

When I came to Canada, I started doing spoken word…and voila! I entered a clique. Though it didn’t’ feel like one; it felt like a group of people who were passionate about poetry that just so happened to share it together. But when I started to look closer, I noticed things. I noticed that certain poets hang out with certain poets and newcomers are intimidated by all the commorodery  taking place. Then you have your different scenes, different reading series and different styles altogether. There’s “urban” spoken word, page poetry, “hipster” slams, underground slams, “we do our own thing” events and people who do it just to do it. You can do well at one event, but terrible with the same work and same performance at another. Poetry Slam/Spoken Word has always had this invisible “likeability” factor that comes into play. People don’t always listen to the words, they want to know they can believe you, so they spend their time inspecting your “street cred.” Anyway, I’m completely deviating from my topic here. So…like I was saying,

I hate cliques. I love poetry. But I’ve found cliques in poetry…and I hate it. The cliques have been further exacerbated by certain problems in our community (see “Let Your Words Live Through You”). My own experience may have also been compounded by the fact that I have a tendency to be socially awkward. I often do not know what to say when I meet new people (poets especially) and usually end up not speaking much or avoiding conversation altogether. Yes, I am still a wall-rider. This can be (and I think often is) confused as me being “stush” or stuck-up. But I am not, I just don’t know what to say, because I’ve never been very social. And when I was in cliques, I hated it. I hated ostracizing people. I hated feeling elite. I just don’t like it.

So I don’t even know what I was driving at with this post. I just know it bugs me. Maybe it’s my own insecurities. and Facebook can ruin relationships (no matter how platonic). Because when I reach out to someone (via commenting) along with 8 other people, and that person acknowledges 8 of the responses (mine not included), I’m left wondering what the fuck happened. So I just step back and watch it happen. All I can do is be true to myself. If that truth irks certain people, then I guess that is that. There is a comfort and happiness that is immeasurable that I get from staying at home and hugging my wife and son. So I have chosen now to not try and elbow my way into cliques. My art speaks for itself so all I can ask is that my words and presence might touch someone and I might live forever in their hearts and minds. But making someone feel ostracized in an atmosphere that is supposed to harbor acceptance, is not something I want to be a part of.

 

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6 Comments so far
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well said! I can relate to this a lot.

Comment by Tammy MacKenzie

Yogz… I know exactly what you are talking about and have probably been guilty (although unknowing) of being in the clique and keeping people on the outside (I was always such a loner that I probably relate more than people think to not saying anything because I don’t feel like forcing my way into a circle I’m not openly included in)… But with us; it’s family, not the “cool kids”… I now know what to watch for when making new acquintances in the “scene” and I know who I trust and respect for their whole person, not just the flashes of brilliance on stage, but the real commitment to being people first; that’s family and no clique can copy that…

Comment by Bammarang

I hear you Tomy. You’re dead-on right. Some people turn out to be family, and that cannot be faked. I think some of the problem is those flashes of brilliance on stage. I end up awe-struck and that puts me in this strange place admiration, which puts them on invisible pedestals. I just hate cliques…along with “rock star” poets. the 2 don’t jive to me.

Comment by Yogi

Well, I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with being a “rock-star” poet if you’ve rightfully claimed an incredible talent that lots of people respect you for. But it’s all a balancing act, I think. Like you said, you have to be a person first.

As for cliques, I totally understand what you’re saying here, and the more I read your blog posts the more I realize how similar we are (it’s actually kind of calming and reassuring, actually, that there’s others like me). I was a leader for a little while, in my clique in highschool. I still like being a leader, but not in cliques. It’s a degenerative position.

There’s nothing to it. You just feed off of others’ pain. And I realized that what I was doing/saying wasn’t right – but the fact that everyone copied me, listened to me and took my advice – god. That was intoxicating for a while.

Until I started ostracizing people. Until I started losing friends.

Now, my experience is obviously told through my own eyes, but the more I look back on it, the more I realize it was not one sided (aka I wasn’t the bad guy in the scenario). It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the person I was, and to realize that the person I am now is completely different.

A lot of this change came through poetry for me, and yet I see the same cliques you do.

I’ve stopped coming to TPS not because of cliques (happily) but because of the line ups. It’s gotten kind of crazy, and to me, that makes poetry impersonal. I can’t come up to someone that’s been on stage and chat for 10 minutes because after they come down I won’t have the patience to walk around for an hour attempting to find them.
It was intimidating talking to people when I first started, but for me, Facebook makes it easier. I can send great people/poets I admire messages or other things and not worry about the eyes of everyone they’re sitting with being on me.

Just adding my piece. 🙂

Comment by kharlamovaa

hey Arina! good to hear from you again.

as far as being a “rock star” poet. sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. we all wanna be rock stars. i guess what i was getting at was poets who behave like obnixious rock stars.

it seems like you have a side that used to be a cliquester. and you’re right…about the whole feeding off people’s pain thing. in order for people to feel empowered, someone else has to surrender their power and feel a certain amount of pain. but i give you inredible amounts of kudos for becoming the person you are. i honestly could not see you any other way 🙂

and i haven’t to TPS in a whiel for different reasons. i just end up spending the time with my son instead. the line-ups i can deal with, you just gotta leave very early. but the impersonal thing…you’re right. i guess that happens with anything. once something loses that grassroots feel, it’s gone. popular culture wraps it all-encompassing fingers around it. and hey, that packed/standing-room-only space adds the whole “rock star” feeling 🙂

a pleasure, as always, to share thoughts with you. i’m still getting used to this whole blog thing, lol.

Comment by Yogi

Hey Yogi,

I feel you. In high school, I chilled with the outcasts. Never really fitting in. But none of us did. In college I didn’t fit in at all. I chalked it up to being 2 or 3 yrs older than everyone else. After college I found groups that I could connect with online. But online isn’t face-to-face.

Initially spoken word was the same thing for me: A large but open and accepting community. Over time I saw the same things. People are friends at the show. But who chills together afterward? And who sits together at the show?

This Saturday at TPS was cool. I got to chill with my brother-in-law for the day. We played some Xbox, ate out @ a Chinese restaurant, and took in some spoken word. I was glad to chill with some peeps I knew from Burlington before & during the show. I made it to the 2nd round, got to see Tomy rock-out his acronyms piece, and see Kay’la take it home.

After the slam was over I felt like I was on the outside of a glass wall looking in. People were walking around talking about the show, what they’ve been up to, or if they were going to the after party.

Why is it we so easily become the thing we despise? Our actions and inactions consistently flow contrary to what we desire, or CLAIM to desire. I guess the best we can do is recognize it when we do it, call ourselves out on it, and do or best to double-back and go the RIGHT way!

So thanks… for doing just that!

Comment by Ryan (Duffman) Duffy




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