Back in the day, poetry readings were intimate affairs crammed into noisy cafes replete with baristas banging portafilters like judges’ gavels. Covid, however, has inspired online adaptation in the art, which Petaluma poet Michael Giotis has embraced in his ongoing, live Instagram poetry series Found Poetry. I had questions, he had answers. Giotis, whose work is published by the same press collective as mine, answered below.
There seems to be a Renaissance in poetry both online and elsewhere (Amanda Gorman comes to mind). To what do you attribute this spike in interest?
MG: I think people are sick of only consuming. Poetry is literally creation; the Greek word for both poetry and creation is the same. Now, creatives have these platforms where anyone can find an audience and there is nothing more powerful than putting your unique creation into the world and having people respond. If you need to heal, write a poem. Need to imagine a better world, write a poem, the way only you can. When you have this way of thinking, following others’ work is inspiring in a way that binge watching just isn’t.
What was the inspiration for “Found Poetry” and what have been the results?
MG: We used to gather in my living room and read the great poets. That’s how I first got into the performance side of reading poetry. Found Poetry is a return to that, a chance to perform my favorite poets. I’ve had people as varied as Megan Malone, the novelist based here in Petaluma, and mOody bLaCk (@iammoodyblack), a rapper and poetry educator in South Carolina.
Are Instagram and other online outlets just a Covid fad or do you think they will continue to be a platform for poetry and its performance?
MG: These people could be watching TV to pass Covid, but they are choosing to listen to poets and other artists every night. Now and again, I throw some money onto a poet’s Cash App just like I’d pay for a movie or a book. If poets are getting paid for the content they are creating, it can keep going.
How has the medium affected your own message as a performance poet?
MG: I appreciate hearing unmediated voices from different communities. A lot of my tribemates are Black folks across the South. Now we learn about each other. My IG friend Kendra Yates (@myknichelle) from the East Coast just performed on Rivertown Poets’ Zoom. It’s made my message more community focused, perhaps more compassionate.
“Found Poetry” kicks off at 8pm, Feb. 11, with Bay Area poet Hella Famous. Giotis is also hosting a Zoom panel on Psychedelics, Surrealism and Spirituality in Poetry. Follow @originalgiotis on Instagram for details.