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Commentary: Two Minutes of Poetry

By Tim Bienkowski

Buffalo, NY – Recently, I had the privilege of attending a poetry marathon called the Urban Epiphany, held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. The event featured about one hundred local poets invited to read for about two minutes each in a rotating feast of poetic appetizers. I was excited to participate and towards the end of the evening I had an epiphany of my own.

What if everyone had to write and share two minutes of poetry? Not just practicing poets mind you, but everyone. What if this event was an expected achievement for most people like getting baptized or passing your drivers exam? Let's just pretend that in our age of consumerism and careerism, our society also placed equal value on creativity.

Imagine the possibilities...

You could learn much about a person by their choice of subjects, tone, rhythm and style. You could spot the egotistical by their ten-minute rants or humorists by their unexpected punch lines.

Singles would trade poems on the Internet, the more daring offering their performance in video format. Coffee shops would echo with "what's your poem?" instead of "what's your sign?" Perhaps, performance showcases like "American Idol" would popularize the spoken word as an alternative to the off key ones. Everyone would finally get their two minutes of fame; fifteen minutes never did work out with the population explosion.

Of course with every opportunity opened, there could be downsides.

The government would probably require access to your two-minute poem and would likely develop "threat analysis" software to analyze and categorize your political, ideological and romantic preferences.

Some would view the poetry movement as unpatriotic, labeling many new poets as political instigators and potentially dangerous.

An underground black market for quality poetry would probably emerge for the unscrupulous to purchase as their own. This would provide a fringe benefit to the starving poets of today as an alternative to other questionable occupations such as advertising or politics.

The entertainment industry might run bad press for poetry. After all, it would take people away from their plasma TVs, Ipods and Xboxes. Who wants people sitting around contemplating their lives, scribbling notes down, when they could be out purchasing "Kill Bill 3?"

Of course, any new trends always produce winners and losers. Winners would include the ink and paper industries, opticians and academia. Losers would include consumer technology, reality TV, and psychology professionals including Dr. Phil.

On the other hand, people would live more conscious lives, be better able to recognize their own problems and discover solutions from within. They would be less likely to be manipulated by the news media, advertising, and the government, and be more likely to develop their own voice.

Many might find this whole idea a bit "off the wall." But if you think about it, we have become a nation of listeners and watchers. We leave the creativity to the professionals who write for the mass audience, often concentrating on the lowest common denominator.

Prior to the 20th century, there were very few professional entertainers and very little mass media. People found a way to entertain each other through storytelling, singing, and writing their thoughts down for each other to read.

Isn't it time we all get involved in the magical pursuit of capturing our own ideas and sharing them with our neighbor?

Ideas are like stars. Isn't it time to let the clouds clear?

Listener-Commentator Tim Bienkowski is a local writer who frequently appears at local poetry readings.

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