Clint Smith conveys yesterday beautifully

A friend, and subscriber to my monthly newsletter, emailed me a link to a TED talk by slam poet and teacher, Clint Smith. The talk is currently featured on TED’s own home page.

Is this a talk or a recital of poetry? I went to raise the same question with my friend; and then found that in my haste to click on his link I had skimmed over some of his email and overlooked his asking me almost the same question.

As far as I am concerned, there is no doubt that this is a recital of poetry. If you follow the link I have added to Smith’s name in the first paragraph, you will find yourself on the home page of Smith’s own site. There you will find embedded yet another TED talk, and that is a recital of poetry also.

I have met many whose way of not using paper on the speaking platform is to write a script and learn it. I dislike and disapprove of the practice, partly because they are dealing in written, rather than spoken, words; but more crucially because they are proffering a time-capsule. The words they speak are not of now but of yesterday or last week or whenever they wrote the script that they learned. Without my getting bogged down in the details, let me explain that the paperless technique I teach involves mind-map structures that are so clear and secure that the speaker can shoot from the hip, using words that are genuinely spontaneous.

Spontaneous words have a sound and feel of their own; and they also carry an invaluable subtext of sincerity.

I believe Smith is relaying a time-capsule. We are listening to the words of yesterday. The words may be just as true today, but they are not today’s words.

They are beautiful words. I love the energy and staccato urgency that he generates through the use of asyndeton – there are numerous examples, not least the four core principles he lists at 1:08. I love the iambic rhythms that repeatedly appear. I love the tone colours in his words and phrases. I just don’t think it is spontaneous, in which case it is yesterday not now.

I may be wrong: I readily concede the possibility that when you live, breathe, dream and teach this medium you could develop the ability to generate it spontaneously. It doesn’t feel like that to me, but if that is what he is doing I take it all back.

No I don’t: I don’t take back what I said about the beauty.


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