Music and poetry share soft frontiers. It's not always easy to tell a song lyric from a poem, when many times the lyrics are what we desire most to hear. Are a given song's lyrics necessarily struck in the language of poetry? Hard to say... so much depends upon the song, and the merits of the language itself.
For more background on Sheri-D Wilson, you can read a brief biography supplied by the artist.
Also, you can read a brief bio of Wilson's musical composer and accompanist, Russell Broom.
However, if you start with the premise that a lyric could stand by itself without the music, or if you respect those defining aspects of poetry while producing a text to be performed with music, then the listener gets quite another thing. Not a song per sé, but neither a plain poem, such poetry is free to indulge musical elements of the language -- rhythm and meter, onomatopoeia, and even riffs of scat -- and still live comfortably with the intent of a basic song. The listener gets a bonus: a song that thinks.
More than so many people who attempt poetry music, Sheri-D Wilson soars through the overlapping spaces of sound and word. Wilson is a multi-faceted artist and performer. She acts, appears in films, sings with a band, and writes texts for publication and performance alike. She seems to operate on these in a wholistic way, calling her fashion of performance poems "poemologues," or poems that function as monologues. But the key thing seems to be understanding that a text doesn't simply have to function in context with sound and music elements, it should be able to stand well enough on its own, too. This is the writer's prerogative.
The second great reason to celebrate Wilson makes a big difference, but is also a special pleasure I've earned from working with her. Wilson has a very spontaneous wit, the kind that likes to play with you in conversation, to mess with your head, throw you the occasional curve ball and relish the comeback. This came out in correspondence with her in my process of assimilating her writing and audio works, and so build this site. It's a sexy quality with a lust for words, relishing interaction and unsuspected turns of phrase.
Ordinarily I'm not that keen on the writer's ego in poetry, lest I succumb to a cult of personality. I prefer to weigh a poem's worth apart from the writer, or whatever mythos of the writer that the writer would try to induce in me. However, you can't avoid Wilson once you get into her pieces, whether they're spoken or written. She's just going to have to tell you her story. But she does this with much empathy, even if she's in character. Her "I" is charitable, and faithful to the real person doing the writing.
The third reason to celebrate Wilson is her voice as Woman. Let's start with listening to Men Min Ming Mang. It's enough to induce chills in even the most sensitive of sensitive guys, but the piece is a hoot and not without a self-critical element -- I hear this in that martini'd cackle of the women at their so-called "happy hour." Wilson and Co. capture it in a very nonchalant but complex way. In their language, I imagine men stumbling toward relationships with these women, the women being unimpressed, but also revealing how they are hardening from the process. It's a progesterone-laiden emulation of the oppressor.
There's much fun in this, a sweet feminist lampoon of sexism that's a bit wizened at the borders, double-edged and lovely in its irony. I always get the feeling that everybody's just a little pathetic in this scene, and they're intentionally painted that way. Wilson and her colleagues expose much about personal relationships in the context of friends to render the moment, and use some keen performance skills in the process. It leaves me breathless. Chuckling, a little riled by the quality of their (the characters') feminine gaze, but breathless. I've auditioned the piece for women, and the inversion sticks, albeit with different consequences entirely. It induces expressions of sympathy and a little embarrassment in the same stroke, but it also elicits a chuckle of recognition, of "Been there, done that." Such is Woman's tale.
And here is where my whole Voice of Woman thang merely begins with Wilson. Touch any poem in this collection (or others), and you sense much more than stock-in-trade feminism at work. Ideas navigate mythic spaces with palpable but grounded beauty. There's romance, won and lost. Nostalgia and hypothesis about the future. Shamanistic ("Sha-Woman-istic"?) dances and Beat-inspired linquistic departures. It's the completeness that gets you. Wilson takes on the challenge of speaking for Woman, and you get her whole self in the deal. The reward is her written and performed legacy, which I hope you will enjoy well beyond this humble website.
- Kurt Heintz