Monday, March 14, 2011

Tracie Morris, "Project Princess" [L1]

Morris, Tracie. “Tracie Morris at WHNY09 [Performing ‘Project Princess’].” YouTube. YouTube, 4 Nov. 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. [L1]


Morris performs the poem twice in this performance, first in hip hop mode, second in sound experiment mode. I find this juxtaposition of registers intriguing and think it illustrates what I see as major influences on Morris' work specifically and on performance poetry in general. Her hip hop performance has the flair---the tone, cadence, attitudes, content---many associate with underground hip hop culture. I say underground because, unlike much commercialized hip hop, it's not an angst-filled performance. It's neither abrasive nor violent. And much of the commercialized culture (say, for instance [among other things], gangsta rap) seems infused with anger. Additionally, both of Morris' performances combined make me think of the improvisational prowess of freestylists, laying down their mutual rhythms and interlocking lyrics on a street corner (or in a car or on the stage), each performance playing off of and feeding into the other.

And while both performances seem to bear some marks of hip hop culture,* the second seems more obviously influenced by a Dadaist poetics of fragmentation, dissociation, and experiments with sound (as in these examples). There's also a strong feminist element at play in Morris' voicing of a silenced community. Martina Pfeiler and others suggest that these three poetics---Dada, African American, and feminist---have heavily influenced contemporary American performance poetry.

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*The five main aspects of hip hop culture are as follows: emceeing, breaking, graffiti art, beat boxing, and DJ-ing.