eight: Saul Williams, She

So I’m in the middle of a Saul Williams double bill this week as recognition of the fact that I’m going to see him perform his new album, Niggy Tardust, tomorrow night. I’m fantastically excited: he’s my absolute favourite slam poet, and the one time I’ve seen him before he was mesmerising.
The fact that I’m more familiar with Saul Williams as a performer (listening to his albums, watching the films he’s been in) made reading She this week different to the other books I’ve read so far. I found it was much easier to read if I was consciously hearing the words in my head, in Saul Williams’ voice, imagining how he would be speaking them. Partly because of this, partly because of the style of the writing, the link between poetry and rhythm seemed very direct. (I don’t often read poetry aloud to myself, or even try to hear it in my head.)
I’m not all that familiar with performance/slam poetry but there was a lot of word play and punning in She, which I think is characteristic. This is typical:

i drew her
like a bath
then sat and soaked
watching the bubbles
as a ring
around the tub
gave us the age
of trees

I can’t pull out a list of favourites this week as none of them have titles. But this one reached out and grabbed me, probably partly because it was familiar as part of the lyrics of ‘Fearless’, on Amethyst Rock Star:
she had nothing
but time on her hands:
silver rings, turquoise stones
and purple nails
i rubbed my thumb
across her palm:
a featherbed
where slept a psalm
yea, though i walk
i used to fly
and now we dance
i watched
my toenails blacken
and walked a deadened trance
until she woke me
with the knife edge
of her glance
i have the scars to prove
the clock strikes
with her hands
Click here for a taste of Saul Williams performing. I can’t wait for tomorrow…

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