Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hip-Hop Bards

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hip-Hop Bards

Article excerpt

"Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture" by Dana Gioia, ill The Hudson Review (Spring 2003) 684 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10021.

Stepping out of the cloisters of English departments and literary' journals for the first time in more than half a century, poetry is everywhere, according to Gioia, a poet and the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. And whom do we have to thank for this renaissance: a recipient of the Yale Younger Poets prize? An august literary critic? Guess again. A DJ named Cool Herc? Well, maybe.

Whether or not Cool Here was the originator of hip-hop is a murky topic. It's clear, however, that the Bronx's gift to the world popularized rhyme and meter, making syllabic counts and verbal acrobatics a force in popular culture. Moreover, hip-hop, along with its close cousin, the poetry slam, and its rural neighbor, cowboy poetry, has created an appetite for oral poetry reminiscent of that in antiquity.

By the 1970s, the decade that witnessed the birth of hip-hop, many dues-paying members of the literati saw rhyme and narrative verse as old hat, while free verse and "concrete poetry," in which the form of the words on the printed page is all-important, were a la mode. Rooted in the traditions of print culture, literary poetry still relied on variations of a 15th-century technology, movable type, for its preservation and dissemination. By contrast, the new popular poetry uses modern-day media such as radio, CDs, video, and the Internet, along with stratagems borrowed from the entertainment industry, to attract a general audience that is less and less inclined to devote time to reading. …

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