Sometimes, I think poetry slamsand open mics eat their young. In a coffee shop recently, a young poet screamed a list of all the things she wanted to write about and inserted the words revolution, Mumia, police brutality every five lines, at the top of her lungs. She waved her arms wildly. She squatted down. She jumped up. She stood on one leg.

The audience thought,
Wow! This is great poetry!
They stomped their feet, screamed affirmations and cheered.

I thought to myself,
”gee, I’m getting old. Really ancient, wizened
old. Sin, pyramids, horse and buggy, world without internet old.
BBS, monochromatic monitors remembering old.
Old in amazing ways like getting the same looks I gave my father
when I asked him what he watched
on television when he was a little boy
and he said, we didn’t have television
and I screeched in fear. A fear born of the idea
that in some reality somehwhere... television did not exist.
A primal yelp, similar to the one that happens
during that first awful discovery
that things die.

I howled,
”then what did you do?!?
Calmly he said,”We read books. In the living room,
we sat around and listened to radio
He smiled wistfully, "I miss it.
Those were great when..."

I didn’t want to hear anymore horror stories from this old piece of gristle. Obviously, he couldn’t understand the modern world.

So, young screaming poet in coffee shop approaches. Shyly, she asks, what I thought of her poem. (My mother says, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. “ There is power in clichés from old ladies. But, I’m still too much of a fool to listen to my mother. So thinking she really wants an opinion, I say,

”I think you’ve got great talent. You are thinking and writing about a lot of important issues. You might want tostudy sestina and pantoum, so you can make more effective use of repetition in your work. Let me explain, in a workshop once, Sonia Sanchez said something like, ‘repetition is the leading death among young poets who wish to publish’. So, studying forms which use repetition will help your poetry move to the next level."

I had the nerve to continue, even though her eyebrows knit, and her puffy lips pouted ever so slightly,

“What is so incredible, is that I heard six or seven poems in that one poem. How lucky you are to have so much to write about! If I were you, I’d seize this wonderful opportunity write all of the poems you mentioned in the poem you just read. But, I’d do it using a variety of poetic forms. You see, form is a useful tool to control the ways we talk about difficult subjects. Instead of allowing us to devolve into sociological rhetoric, form helps keep us true to writing poetry.”

She stormed off in a huff, obviously very angry with me. And I realized she must have been thinking, Stupid old bitty, how is poetic form going to help me scream about revolution?