Peace. This list of who I believe to be the top 5 Poets in Baltimore is based on two things. The first being that the Baltimore area is their primary residence. (And since I no longer live in B-more, I don't make my list. LOL). The second being I've had the privilege of hearing and experiencing these poets over a protracted amount of
time. Others I may have listed would be newer poets who haven't proven to stand the test of time. These are poets I've witness for at least 10 years and at ANY time they could easily take to the stage, stand and deliver.
In no particular order:
1. Taalam Acey: Considered by many to be a living legend of this current generation of poets, along side Saul Williams I would say Taalam's writing and performance style is an archeotype of many of today's best poets. Easily the most imitated poet in the country, Taalam's performance rhythm harkens to the days of the Black Arts Movement's Amiri Baraka wherein one's mastery of tone and inflection is as important as the writing. Taalam's writing style is unmuddled with tricky word play, but places value on each word's placement. As awriter he's unequaled. As a performer you could try but it's better if you just take notes!
2. Komplex: Very few poets who are also MC's are able to find the balance between the two where you being an MC enhances your poetry and it does not sound like an aceppella rap. Komplex is one of those few; Intricate wordplay, poetic timing and a master of stage presence. Whether he's fronting a band as Cowboy Kom, or being Mr. Keep On Movin' he's consistently a great poet.
3. Olu Butterfly: As artf orms become more popular to the masses there's a tendency among artists to make it more accessible instead of cultivating audiences to grow into the art form. Poetry being an art form that's based in abstract thought, poets must be masters of both the language of land animals as well as those that take to the sky. If you missed what I said, consult Olu Butterfly. Her writing speaks volumes of advance studies in June Jordan, Nikki Giovanni, while her performance is more Lena Horne meets MC Lyte. Though these days she's more behind the scenes as Baltimore's Poetry Movement's backbone and spine; When she does decide to hit the stage, it's like Stevie Wonder...he doesn't need a hit song on the radio to do what he do! Neither does she!
4. Slangston Hughes: The Thelonius Monk of poetry. In a word based artform it's hard to differentiate yourself unless you find your own voice. Slangston has done this. His wordplay is his own form of
"slanguage arts." The depth of concept and imagery forces the listener to really LISTEN or you'll miss something. And you'll probably miss something anyway due to his stage performance of shooting himself with a pencil to fall face-flat on stage to only resurrect as a different personality. What I said earlier about abstract thought doesn't really apply here...Slangston is more like alien thought!
5. Archie the messenger: In the next five years Archie The Messenger will probably be the next most imitated poet in the country. What hits you
first about Archie is his stage performance; I'm not sure if it's that healthy to give so much of yourself in a performance. Secondly it's his wordplay; which is an understatement, it more like full-out recess! Easily the most dynamic poet ever, Archie's writing style is
a potpourri of every poetic device used by poets, MC's, Actors, comedians, sewn together into a seamless fabric of rhyme. And bad news for the biters: he keeps growing and he's getting better. So while your biting what he did tonight, it'll be known as "old Archie" by next month!
The weirdest thing about the Baltimore poetry scene, with the exception of Olu most of these poets aren't originally from Baltimore. Baltimore has become like Bermuda Triangle for talent and is known
around the country as one of the best cities for poetry. So, I pray that my appreciation of my fellow poets above is accepted in the spirit of love it was written in. Peace.