The OraL Tradition

By Mike Sonksen


(Nomadic Rhymers are Timeless)

Poetry started with the oral tradition.
Before books people listened
The word was spoken first
History sung in verse,
Bards, griots, gnostics, troubadours
In the beginning there was the word..

Ancient Sanskrit scribes
Memorized Vedic texts
Through chants & mantras
Recitations like the Upanishads.
Assonance & alliteration,
Soliloquies & monologues.
Early Greek poets called Rhapsodes
Told epic tales including the Iliad
Griots wandered across West Africa
Sharing legends & praise poems
Twelfth Century Troubadours traveled
Town to town telling tales.
Sestinas, villanelles, tell the tale,
The villanelle as a vehicle
Respect to the Italian Renaissance,
Source of the sonnet & ballad.

Nomadic rhymers are timeless!
Elizabethan & Shakespeare,
Back to nature like the Romantic poets.
Get your Wordsworth, cooler than Coleridge,
Lyrical ballads,
Bright stars like John Keats,
Mythical like Lord Byron & Shelley
William Blake & the Auguries of Innocence,
Metaphysical poets, American transcendentalists,
Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson
Singing the body electric with Walt Whitman
Fireside poets gathering families
Around the fire listening to poetry,
The Theatre of the Word..

Nomadic rhymers are timeless!
Yeats, a heavyweight in the Rhymers Club,
Edgar Lee Masters & the Chicago Renaissance,
Sandburg’s City of Big Shoulders,
Chilling with William Carlos Williams
Or in the Wasteland with T.S. Eliot.
Crossing the Bridge with Hart Crane,
Surrealists, Futurists, Dada,
W.E. Dubois & the Smoke King.
Langston Hughes & the Harlem Renaissance,
Black Mountain Poets, Projective Verse,
Beat Generation poet mystics,
Poetry as an occupation like Neruda
Duende with Federico Garcia Lorca
Kenneth Rexroth & the San Francisco Renaissance..

Nomadic rhymers are timeless!
New York School cool with Ted Berrigan.
Frank O’Hara writing poems on his lunch break.
Catching a handshake with Leroi Jones
Before he became Amiri Baraka,
Don L. Lee became Haki Madhubuti,
Can’t forget Nikki Giovanni,
The Black Arts Movement,
Cultural movements,
Academic movements,
Geographic movements, ideological movements,
The word keeps moving!
Abstract expressionists,
New formalists,
Lexical integrationists,
Language poets, Household Poets,
Spoken word semiotics.
Narrative linguistics,
Imagists, Objectivists,
Copper Canyon Press,
Check the text.

Nomadic rhymers are timeless!
Warriors of the Word
Pounding the pavement of time
Living their lines through
Experience outside of the academy.
Take it to the concrete,
Go Prairie troubadour like Vachel Lindsay
Factory windows are always broken
Other windows are let alone,
Stream of consciousness
Nomadic rhymers are timeless!
Transcontinental tellers of the tale.
12th Century troubadours,
Greek rhapsodes, West African griots,
Celtic bards, Egyptian Gnostics,
Chanted Buddhist sutras,
Spoken Word Poets & Hip Hop emcees
Nomadic rhymers are timeless.
Three generations on the same stage,
All the ancestors on the same page.

Poetry started with the oral tradition
Before books people listened
The word was spoken first
History sung in verse,
Bards, Griots, Gnostics, Troubadours
In the beginning there was the word.

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MIKE SONKSEN aka Mike the PoeT is a 3rd-generation Los Angeles native. Poet, professor, journalist, historian and tour-guide, his latest book Letters to My City was just published by Writ Large Press. Sonksen teaches in the Interdisciplinary Department at Woodbury University and is the Coordinator of the School's First Year Experience Program.

2 responses to “The OraL Tradition”

  1. Great piece, Mike! So honored to have you involved with TNB. Big sky love…

  2. milo martin says:

    you da Man, Mike…
    i have always admired your admiration…
    going back to the ONYX days…
    truly, your brother of The Word,

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