The Cortland Review


Grace Cavalieri
The Poet and The Poem #5: A one-hour audio program exploring the African-American roots of rap poetry and the current art form with German rap poet Bastian Boettcher.

David Kennedy
David Kennedy discusses the state of anthologies and the latest gathering by Nicholas Johnson, Foil: Defining Poetry 1985-2000.

Daniela Gioseffi
The haunting, subconscious-driven poetry of Martha Rhodes in her new book, Perfect Disappearance.

John Kinsella
Haycarting: Dialogue, discussion, and dictation among herbs, vegetables, and fruits in the latest chapter of John Kinsella's autobiographical series.

The Poet and The Poem

Grace Cavalieri is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Sit Down, Says Love (Argonne Hotel Press, 1999), and numerous produced plays, including Pinecrest Rest Haven (Word Works, 1998), to be produced in NYC this year. She has also written texts and lyrics for opera, stage, and film. Producer/host of NPR’s "The Poet and the Poem" weekly from 1977 to 1997, presenting 2000 poets to the nation, she now produces the series annually from the Library of Congress via NPR satellite. The recipient of awards that include the PEN Fiction Award, The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal as well as others which honor her “significant contribution to poetry” and distinguish her as an exceptional woman, she is part of the poetry faculty at St. Mary’s College of Southern Maryland and teaches workshops nationwide. She and her husband, sculptor Kenneth Flynn, live in West Virginia. They have four grown daughters.
The Poet and The Poem #5 - Bastian Boettcher


Bastian Boettcher, winner of national and international poetry slams in Europe, founded the rap group Zentrifugal, which has released two singles and an album. As a poetry rapper, he toured in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand, and Austrailia, as well as in Canada and the United States. He conducted the first German Rhyme School, the "HipHop WordShop – the Elite School of Rap Art," providing young people the opportunity to experiment with rap and poetry.  Actively promoting rap and poetry online, he created, programmed, and produced a prize-winning CD-ROM that included hypertextually intertwined flowing rap. He also acts as webmaster for the German Poetry Slam Scene. His poetry has been published in anthologies, including Trash Pilots: Texts for the 90s and An Anthology to German Literature since 1945.

The Poet and The Poem (Program 5)   
Click to hear in real audio

Program #5: 
Washington, D.C. artists hosting German Rapper, Bastian Boettcher.

German artist Bastian Boettcher performs wonderful improvised and stylized poetry with American poets Kenneth Carroll and D.J. Renegade. Musician Emory Diggs (acoustic bass) and Brother Ah (African horns) perform with the poets. Host Grace Cavalieri explores the African-American roots of rap poetry and its current art form in conversation with the artists.  (co-produced by Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes in Washington, DC.)

This one-hour program is presented in streaming audio.

Listen to the program

A Word on Rap Poetry
by Grace Cavalieri

Art is motion. Art begins in spirit and moves to form. Musical art is made up of fragments: sound- thought- feeling. All art continues to spiral and change.

Rap music began from the spirit of black people and took its form from the traditions of black culture, moving to become a worldwide expression. With its pieces and parts of thought, feeling, political protest, humor, and technology, a phenomenon emerged. Now a global music form, we can still see its roots connected to the earth. It comes from the very reason people must sing, from the persistence of the creative spirit and the insistence that artists are ingenious humans. Rap is part of the unending story of song.

Rap poetry takes its rhythms from as far back as the slave call in African-American traditions; it comes from the fields, the dance at the bonfire, the shout of urgent communication. From early times, African Americans have transmorphed sound and movement to symmetry, unity, and beauty. Today rap has evolved from its early utterance to a more centrist outcry crossing and blending with jazz, rock and roll, and poetry.

In the 1970's, with rap, the DJ charted a new musical course—talking, connecting records, mixing and matching sounds, spinning with innovation while rappers added their own brands of live performance.

Rap essentially grew out of protest, describing life on the street—drugs, crime, betrayal, disappointment, and abuse. While rappers thumped out messages in rhyme, DJ-technicians, working in converted garages, would tape, overlap sound, mix commercials and TV sound tracks to existing record labels. Bits and pieces of electronic society were pasted together to bolster the message. In the "sampling," America mixed its packaged culture with raw originality.

The 1980's saw female rappers rise to the forefront to have their say, primarily in answer to male counterparts. As with all art that pushes the boundaries of convention, rap divided the music community. Many in the black community, in the 90's denounced rap as not representing the people well. Conservative music audiences found much in the lyrics to rally against and cause for boycotting the art.

Yet it persisted. As early as the 1980's, certain rap artists veered away from the purely political rhetoric to humorous, more entertaining, and universal themes. This touched off an industry that was already into major profit, but it did something better than make money: rap was becoming a mainstream art form. Today rap is a billion-dollar industry, but that is not its finest contribution, what with the greed and discord spawned there. Something beyond commerce endures: the essence of a people expressed—a mass contribution from a fragile beginning. It is a voluminous movement of music and poetry; and, because all art is motion, rap has moved to a new place with new meanings and new creators.

Primarily a poet, Bastian Boettcher is Germany's leading rap artist. He emboldens the world with a new view, a purity of voice, an individual expression within the tradition of rap's rhymed stanza.

Popular music that endures usually owes its life to the lyrics. Boettcher is adding a new strand to rap with his language and highly developed indications of feeling, style, and personal character. Though he makes a departure from original rap, he embraces and transforms it. Boettcher—not a spokesman for the rap of poverty and deprivation—does not address hard social issues, but takes rap back to a primal spirit and essence. As a poet, his themes may be about wintertime or a summer day, sound itself, a party, computers, and ordinary human acts which dignify what we know. He speaks to the tiny moments in being alive—what poetry has contributed to the world through centuries. This feature, which is new, is stylistic, and the individual way Bastian condenses melody and rhythm gets its power from that compression. Technology joins poetry. As a linguist, Boettcher can be studied as tops in his field with his choice of language—the right word in the right place. Rap is only as good as the artist, and now come of age, it bears the impression of what it always was—a cry to be heard. Relying on ancient oral traditions, Bastian Boettcher creates something new in manner and form—his own haunting poetry.

About the Participants

Kenneth Carroll, a freelance feature writer and published poet and playwright, has won awards for serving the arts in many capacities, including Director of the Urban Scholars Program for the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. and program director of DC WritersCorps. His work has been published in anthologies including Black Literature Forum (Lit Verlag, 1999), Children of the Dream: Growing Up with Racism, and Icarus. His first book of poetry, So What: For the White Dude Who Said This Ain't Poetry, is available from The Bunny & The Crocodile Press.


DJ Renegade works as a poet, performer, and creative writing instructor. His poetry has appeared in The Washington Post, George Washington Review, Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapalooza (Manic D Press, 1999), and the award-winning video documentary Voices Against Violence, which he helped to write. Winner of the Furious Flower Emerging Poet award in 1995 from James Madison University, he is the reigning National Haiku Slam Champion for the second year in a row. His collection of poetry is entitled 4,000 Shades of Blue. He was poet-in-residence at Ballou High School in Washington and has taught creative writing at other area public schools, Lorton Prison, halfway houses, and for many youth services organizations. He is a member of the Malcolm X Education Committee and the African-American Writers Guild.


Brother Ah is a performer, educator, lecturer, composer, and arranger both in Western and non- Western traditions. He serves as musical director of the World Music Ensemble and of the Sounds of Awareness, specializing in wind instruments, African drums, and percussions. Bringing together the best of African, American, Japanese, European, and Indian music, Brother Ah's primary instruments are French horn and flute. He has composed and directed many extended works including "Ode to Creation," "The Forces of Nature," and "Tribute to the Ancestors." As a French hornist, he has played and recorded with musical greats including Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Dizzy Gillespie. As a classical musician, he has performd with the New York Metropolitan Opera (stage band), George Solti, conductor; Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, Raymond Page, conductor; symphony orchestras in Austria and Germany; and Broadway Theater orchestras in New York.


Self-taught musician, Emory Matthews Diggs, Jr. began playing bass guitar by jamming with other servicemen in German nightclubs. He has worked with several Top 40, jazz, r&b and contemporary gospel bands. Playing with The Universal Messengers of Music (TUMOM), he recorded "Jazz is a National Treasure."  Proficient on either acoustic or electric bass, Diggs has opened for and shared the stage with greats like McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith, Ahmad Jamal, Dizzy Gillespie, Jean Carn, Rachelle Ferrell, and George Duke. 



� 2002 The Cortland Review