Oyster Boy Review 09  
  May 1998
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Word Up Baltimore: A Poetry Collection, by Blair Ewing

C. C. Russell

Word Up Baltimore: A Poetry Collection.
Blair Ewing.
Maryland Poetry Review Project, 1997.
$11.97 (audio-CD).

Before I begin this review, I should let anyone reading it know that I live in Wyoming. How does that affect the review, you ask? Well, here in the "wild west" there are extremely few chances to hear anyone read poetry. Therefore, I may give this a bit more of a glowing review than someone who has a spoken word "scene" nearby. This warning does not come to tell you not to check this compilation out, but just to let you know that I may not be as neutral on the whole idea as someone in a more "literary" part of the country.

This collection attempts to span all genres of the writing world, containing everything from Mark Strand (ex-Poet Laureate of the U.S.) to lesser knowns, everything from hip-hop/Beat-influenced writing to academic forms. Initially, I thought they may have overextended themselves, trying to pull in such an array of styles, but on further listening, I realized that it works quite well. In a time when the academic poets seem to constantly be at war with small press publications and poetry slams, and more street-level poets reject the academic presses completely, it is refreshing. While some of the tracks in the collection tend to lack the muscle that others achieve, it is definitely an interesting selection of what is happening in the Maryland poetry scene, and it introduced me to quite a few writers that I would like to see more of.

Though it is primarily a vehicle, I assume, to promote writers who have appeared in the Maryland Poetry Review, it manages to be something a good bit more far reaching than that, showcasing a lot of fine talent in a CD that is easily worth twelve dollars, especially if you come from a place where spoken word is all but non-existent.

The disk contains voices that are essential, that will certainly see the light of day in many publications in the future, voices that are deeply original and rhythmic. These are voices that need to be heard as well as read, and it's a shame that more magazines don't have the funding to do the same. The tracks featuring James Taylor, Mark Strand, Blair Ewing, Felicia Morgenstern, Rupert Wondolowski, and Julie Scharper especially illustrate why this disk is needed. They are poets as soundscape, as a soundtrack that is integral to the plot of life. This is the spoken word, and if poetry is the tradition of storytelling, than this disk gives us a glimpse into the stories of today. Here. Sit down with me at the fire. There are voices coming towards us.