Thursday, 24 October 2013 12:15

The Diatribe Brings Poetry Back to the People

Written by  Kyle Austin
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The Diatribe The Diatribe PHOTO: Kellie Britton

Where to find The Diatribe: facebook.com/TheDiatribe

The Drunken Retort
Stella's Lounge
Mondays, 9:30 p.m.

The Message
Dr. Grins @ The B.O.B.
Every other Tuesday, 8:15 p.m.

Smokin' Spoken Word
Eastown Hookah Lounge
Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.

Whoever first said that actions speak louder than words wasn't a poet, and they certainly never saw The Diatribe perform. The Grand Rapids-based spoken word collective commands attention with both actions and words, having created significant buzz around the city's evolving poetry scene.

"I've met people who say, 'Why would I want to go to a poetry show? That's the stuff that bored me in English class,' but after they wander into a show, they find that we're easy to relate to," said Mitch 'PoetlikePoe' Burns, a member of The Diatribe. "We're such a diverse group with all different backgrounds and upbringings that it's hard for one of us not to say something that connects with at least one other person in the crowd."

The group of eight – Burns, Azizi Jasper, Marcel 'Fable' Price, G Foster, Stephen 'NoMic' Gren, Rachel Gleason, Duke Greene and Venson Dix – are poets, community activists and musicians who all bonded together by a love for spoken word. They met while performing at Smokin' Spoken Word, a poetry open-mic that Jasper has hosted at the Eastown Hookah Lounge for the past five years, and decided to form an official collective this past January.

With The Diatribe, members believe in pushing one another to greater heights of artistic expression with the goal of bringing a more engaging poetry experience to local audiences.

"We've gotten to the point where we're not afraid to call each other out," Burns said. "We have so much love and respect for each other that it's OK to do something like that and nobody gets upset."

Through three different weekly open-mic events, the group is building an extended family of regulars, some who perform and others who relish the opportunity to sit back and take it all in.

The Drunken Retort, hosted at Stella's Lounge, is billed as a mix of live music, spoken word, passion and laughter. The event is routinely packed and wastes little time getting rowdy. Performers must brings their A-game or risk getting booed off stage Apollo-style if more than three bells (located on each table) are rung during their set.

The Message, a bi-weekly event at Dr. Grins in The B.O.B., has a more laid-back vibe and is spoken-word exclusive. The comedy club atmosphere makes it the perfect place to relax and grab a drink or some grub while listening attentively. Smokin' Spoken Word has a similar feel, but has the added bonus of being hosted in a place that younger kids can get into as well.

"Each show pulls a different crowd," Burns said. "That gives us the opportunity to reach out to as many different kinds of people as possible."

At ArtPrize 2013, The Diatribe did exactly that by creating the only entry in the competition that was accessible to individuals with visual and hearing impairments. The group gave live performances twice a week in Dr. Grins, which also hosted images of each member and books of their writing that were available in text, as well as braille. The goal was to get people thinking about issues surrounding accessibility to art.

"It was never about the votes," Burns said. "We're just trying to raise awareness and create change in the years to come."

Already, the group has changed the way local audiences respond to poetry by injecting the medium with rhythm, passion and communicative force. A true embodiment of the transformative power of language, The Diatribe has wrested poetry from the clutches of academia and delivered it back to the community.

Other Literary Events

Hope College Visiting Writers Series – Patricia Smith
Fried-Hemenway Auditorium, Holland
Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
jrvws.org, (616) 395-7000

Come see renowned poet, playwright and fiction author Patricia Smith at a special author talk where she'll discuss why her work has been called "a testament of the power of words to change lives."

GVSU Writers Series: Playwright Jenni Lamb
Cook-DeWitt Center, Grand Valley State University
Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
gvsu.edu/writing, (616) 331-5437

It takes a special kind of person to write, produce and perform a play. Jenni Lamb is that kind of person. She'll provide attendees with a glimpse into her unique career at this special author talk.

The Ground Up Open Mic Series
Brownstone Café, Battle Creek
First, second and third Saturday of each month, 3 p.m.
facebook.com/groundupatbrownstone

A new open mic series makes Battle Creeks Brownstone Café come alive with poetry and music three Saturdays a month. It's quickly gaining momentum and features a full house for each event.

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