The stuffy library room or crowded coffee shop was replaced by an art gallery. No books being promoted, no websites being pitched like your usual literary reading — only poetry, given freely.
Larry Barron, most widely known as LB the Poet, stood to his full, massive height over the lone microphone at Delurk gallery. Scattered in a half circle behind him were the musicians who made up the improv collective Glenn Sound System: Drums, alto saxophone, guitar, keyboard, congas and hand percussion provided a smooth, eclectic backdrop to the night’s poets.
April 19 marked an evening of the Series of 7, a collaboration of poetry and music at Delurk, the downtown Winston-Salem gallery.
“I’ll be sharing some poetry with everyone,” Barron said to the crowd. “But that’s only a small part. I want to get all of you up here next. Anyone who has anything to share. We all got a poem in us somewhere.”
The idea of the collaboration is blending spoken word with music, giving another layer to the art of performance poetry, a form that dates back at least to collaborations between the Beat poets and jazz players in the 1950s.
Barron is an established figure in the Triad spoken-word scene, having performed on dozens of stages across the state, given television and print interviews for his poetry and founded organizations. He stood behind the microphone clad in his signature attire. Dozens of handmade necklaces and rings with gemstones and crystals adorned his tattooed skin.
As the music began, Barron waited for brief moments, finding the rhythm the band settled into, and his verse began. Smooth lipped and gilt tongued, Barron’s poetry toys with language in a manner best fit for performance. Double entendre and synonymous turns of phrase aided in his exploration of social issues, race, love, family and self-identity. And while his poetry on its own is enough to control the room, even Barron became awed, giving way to his wide, charming smile and pausing to admire the music grooving behind him.
The collaboration of music with verse elevated the rhythms already present in the poetry. A natural, lyrical cadence organically pulsed behind each of Barron’s lines. And while each poem certainly contains a natural rhythm of its own, Barron met the challenge joyfully, adjusting each line to fit the music, and vice versa, leading to a reimagined idea of what the poems are.
The show at Delurk was part of the Triad’s poetry community Authoring Action and SLAM Winston, both of which Barron remains actively involved in as teacher and mentor. Lynn Rhodes and Nathan Ross Freeman founded Authoring Action to help Triad youth develop a creative voice through writing, dance and visual arts. Barron sits among dozens of fellow Triad authors and artists who teach and mentor youth in the program. Barron is also the founder and curator of the Word of Mouth Wednesdays Experience, a monthly poetry showcase, as well as the WORD Society, a collective of performance poets who travel to various states to perform.
To find out more information on LB the Poet or to get involved in community poetry, visit authoringaction.org.
Despite his work in the Triad literary community, Barron sets aside plenty of time to focus on writing his poetry. He lets his words speak for themselves. In his poem “Yesterday,” featured for Forsyth County Public Library’s series, On the Same Poem, Barron plays with line and form, bringing breath and syllable into his recitation. “Everyday… / I wake up with the hopes of being better than I was… / yesterday, cause… / Lately they’ve been teaching hate, so… /not many people chose to show love yesterday… / Somebody’s Mother… / didn’t get that one last hug yesterday, because violence breeds violence… / and that innocent little boy lost his life to a slug yesterday… / How many Chose school… / over drugs yesterday? To be a scholar instead of a Thug yesterday? I can’t speak for the next… / but, I got it out the Mud yesterday…”
“It’s fitting to be spitting my poetry here surrounded by all of this art,” Barron said to the crowd on Thursday night. “Through art we are able to share what is possible in this life. We are able to question our surroundings and seek truth.”
Barron let the music continue and took a seat in the crowd, allowing anyone in attendance to take the stage. A few brave volunteers adjusted the microphone stand and read from cellphone screens. From the crowd, Barron could be heard cheering and filling the room with his awes of praise, evidence of his passion for mentorship and teaching.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” Barron said. “I’m here, the band is here to share the room, to share art together. It’s about being raw and real and human. I don’t know where the music will go or what I’ll be spinning next, but that’s the beauty of it. So, let’s all share in it together.”