Kinetic Affect poets are preaching to the choir

Author: Mark Wedel; Special to the Gazette
Section: Local News

Article Text:

One part poetry, one part motivational speech, one part performance with dance and music, Kinetic Affect‘s “Word Weaver: Encore” preached up a storm at the Wellspring Theater Friday night in the Epic Center.

It is an encore, with a few new pieces, of their July show.

Preached — as in preachy? The word might have negative connotations for some, but it is the dominant flavor of Gabriel Giron’s andKirk Latimer’s work. Their words are delivered poetry-slam style, which means a recitation is a performance.

With political-social-philosophical viewpoints very strongly expressed in a hellfire-brimstone manner, it is sure to be preachy — though the delivery was more like tag-team street rap than pulpit.

Dancing by Wellspring’s Michael Miller, smooth vocalizations by singer Jamal Larkins, equally smooth guitar by Levi Strickland (Blue Dahlia, Yoroka), and a bit of drumming by Joe Kreider complemented the words.

The music and dance were as subtle as the poetry was heavy. Deeply held personal beliefs, especially when based on their own experiences, resulted in strong pieces from the duo.

Giron, a Western Michigan University student and three-time member of the Kalamazoo Poetry Slam team, thought he had a life in the Army ahead for him, but that ended when he was diagnosed with cancer. His “Survivor” made it clear that every day as a cancer survivor is a special miracle.

Latimer is an English teacher at Portage Northern High School, but in the past he was a brawler and a boxer. In his “Letters to a Fighter,” Latimer told of going from boxing to entering “the most dangerous ring, the classroom.” The ex-boxer had to fight for his students, his “anger replaced by enthusiasm.”

Personal lessons of tough guys who turned aggression into positivity, who struggle against the cultural message that men who show emotions other than anger are weak, led to poems of gender. They expressed love of women in “Wonders of the World,” and got nakedly personal about sex in “Lying in the Garden” (“I didn’t invite my parents,” Latimer said afterward).

Between poems the two spoke to the audience, again about personal transformation, which at times gave the show the vibe of a motivational speech.

They also gave their views on political and world situations. “Without Forgiveness,” a new piece inspired by Desmond Tutu’s speech in Kalamazoo last year, was the strongest in this area, with the duo struggling with the desire for retribution and the need for forgiveness.

In “Gang Mentality,” they decried the damage caused by “the army of one dumb president,” and included audio of Bush’s famous mangling of “fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Y’ fool me can’t get fooled again.”

Pieces like that depend on a belief in the audience that Bush has been an incompetent and destructive force. But by hitting hard on the obvious — or in the case of “Theme Parking, ” which ties Disneyland to the self-immolation of Buddhist monks — the not so obvious, Kinetic Affect’s efforts felt heavy-handed at times.

But subtlety obviously isn’t the point of “Word Weavers: Encore.” Giron and Latimer are out to punch some buttons and provoke thought. After the standing ovation, the large audience spilled out of the theater, buzzing with discussion.

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