– From Lyz Bly’s Introduction of Poems 1999 -2014
_WE KNOW THERE’S NOT ONE WAY, ONE LIGHT, ONE STUPID TRUTH.
KATHLEEN HANNA, BIKINI KILL_
IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND YOURSELF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYBODY ELSE.
In some circles, performance poetry is considered as the colloquial cousin to academic works that sit tidily on the page waiting to be discovered by the reader, who interprets poetry based on her own personal experiences and understanding of the written word and the literary canon. This divide is echoed throughout the literary and visual arts—historically delineated as the “high” and the “low,” work for the “masses,” versus literature for educated “elites.” Scholars and readers have grappled with this rift for decades, particularly in the latter decades of the 20th century, when the African American and women’s rights movements and the postmodernist and post-structuralist theoretical revolutions in the academy challenged notions of what it meant to be a writer, reader, and about who gets to canonize literature.
Kisha Nicole Foster came of age as a young woman and writer amid the condition of postmodernity, which French theorist Jean-François Lyotard ambiguously defines as “an incredulity toward meta narratives,” or skepticism of comprehensive views of identity, culture, and history. In this space, hegemonic notions of truth are suspect, and language itself was a site of ambiguity and ever-evolving meaning; ultimately, the primacy of one person’s reality over another is, in theory, a vestige of the past. Performance of the written word adds character and nuance, making it the idea vehicle for poetry written amid this “postmodern condition.” The Slam Poetry was devised by working-class poet Marc Smith in 1984 at the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago, and six years later the first national Slam took place in San Francisco.