Safe Harbor: Port Veritas Poetry Anthology Volume I

ed. Nate Amadon, Moon Pie Press, 2008,
84 pages, paper, $12,
ISBN: 9781606431870
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It is impossible for most poets who teach in the academy, such as myself, to read this volume of visceral performance poetry from Portland, Maine’s vibrant café scene and not feel the old clichés lurking in the shadows.  Can performance poetry ever truly work on the page?  Does performance poetry need to work on the page?  Is an anthology featuring the work of performance poets attempting to serve as an independent volume of verse or as an artifact of lived experience?  It is unfair to ask any one collection to bear the burden of these questions, but they are questions worth asking as one reads Safe Harbor, an anthology that never runs short on pathos but occasionally suffers from egoism and a rollicking looseness that mars its weaker selections.

What is most consistent from poet to poet is a damnthe torpedoes approach that places any subject, no matter how taboo or revealing, under the microscope of poetry.  From the bungled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the crippling failure of our public schools, to our draconian adherence to gender stereotypes, the Port Veritas confederacy employs hyperbole and metaphor to great result.  Seen in this light, then, these poets are nobly striving to return poetry to its origin as a hybrid of speech and song that, rather than being sanctified, is vivacious, participatory, and didactic.  The problem that results, unfortunately, is that other hallmark slam techniques can be so bombastically overused that it becomes difficult to take some of these poems seriously, as is the case with the most cartoonish hiphop.  After all, how many times can a poet rhyme about AK47 clips in a single stanza?

In the end, though, Safe Harbor is less concerned about aesthetic debates than it is in expressing the range, candor, and tenacity of the Port Veritas community, and it surely accomplishes this and more.

Adam Tavel