John Rives Junior, commonly known as Rives, is a poet, a story-teller and an entertainer. He’s also a paper engineer, meaning that he designs pop-up books, and if anyone ever wants to buy me a present, a Rives designed pop-up book would probably be received with ecstasy.
My interest in Rives began primarily as a result of my research into off-page poetry forms, as he provided a good example of the slam poet who could appeal to a more academic audience – as well as winning the 2004 US Slam Poetry championship he is heavily involved in TED events, being one of a very elite group who has 5 TED talks available: A Story of Mixed emoticons, Reinventing the Encyclopedia Game, The 4am Mystery, If I Controlled the internet and – perhaps the most impressive of all -- his 2006 remix where in under 10 minutes he revisited all the topics and key quotes of the 2006 TED convention; that one certainly impressed Al Gore.
As I studied his work, it struck a key in a way few more academic contemporary poets have: intelligent without being patronising, it explored platforms and delivery methods which resonated with the work I was doing. He might carry out pseudo-ventriloquism conversation with his own hand, recorded on an iPad], take you on a filmed poetic journey, or perform slam in sign-language but his work was always out-there, groundbreaking while it retained a clear understanding of what poetry and narrative were: routes to gain insight into and connection with our emotions and values. I tend to use videos of his work to show my College Creative Writing classes what poetry can be.
He does not publish his poetry in books. If he did, he would probably be much less well known. Instead he performs: at TED, obviously (he is the producer and co-host of the annual TEDActive conferencein Palm Springs, CA) on TV, with programs like Def Poetry Jamand Ironic Iconic America, as a coach and proffesional speaker and on the festival circuit, which is where I met him and discovered that not only is he entertaining and brilliant but he’s a really nice guy.
I’d emailed him before his appearance at the Auckland Readers’ and Writers’ festival, explaining the focus of my research and we had a necessarily brief, but valuable and insightful chat into his process, intentions, inspiration and ambitions, which were pleasantly close to my own, a useful confirmation and support for my argument. After our chat he kissed me on the cheek “Because we’re like that, you and I,” and then gave a delight-filled, multimedia performance including the most romantic of all “in love” poems of the last 20 years “Kite” .
Rives is my gift to you, today, dear noders – here are a few links (WELL worth following) - you can thank me later.
The 4am mystery :
If I controlled the internet
A story of mixed emoticons
Reinventing the encyclopaedia game
By the way, to answer a question in "Kite" - This kind of woman wants that skinny kid for a warrior.