When asked what movement he belonged to Edwin Torres said something along the lines of- There are so many movements happening around us at any given moment, large and small, from decades to just the day coming and going, that if I ever stopped to think about which one I belong I think I might just miss it.
When pressed further Edwin that begin speaking of Dada and how he felt this was one of the primary forces behind his work. I am glad he shared that since I knew him primarily as a Nuyorican sound poet. And in that last statement, I classify Edwin into three boxes. Not that any of those boxes are limiting (the last two are extremely broad) but I am sure someone could come along and say that calling any Nuyorican poet a sound poet would be redundant since a Nuyorican poet is actively dealing with the blending, teraing and reintegration of English, español and Spanglish. But then again, where is this definition written in stone?
This all comes about thanks to the performance movement class I took a few days back where a group of us where places in trios and assigned a specific function- leader, follower, neutral. The leader’s role was to conduct movement independent of any outisde concerns. The follower was to respond to the leader but not entirely by sight since that would lead to mimicry and the follower would lose their identity by just copying. And finally we had the neutral, a position that just notes the relationship between the leader and follower. All this done without any music, just going out into a very large stage area and making the movement happen.
The end result of the three groups was mixed but one common thing was that we are asked for more neutral. No one had a problem being a leader and no one had a problem being a follower but neutral kept disappearing.
We were asked later where in life we considered ourselves- leader, follower or neutral. Speaking as a poet, I decided that I was neutral, that I would like to see myself as a bridge between those who have spoken before me and those who will continue to speak after me. That if I am committed to creating dialogue in my work, then I havce to step back from it and allow the reader to determine where to place my work in the larger movement of oral tradition and how it relates to them personally using more detailed movements, like Nuyorican, sound, stage, performance, slam, etc., to give the reader a real sense of space and distance.
The other thing I noted though was that our group’s unwillingness to accept a neutral position might come from the fact that in our communities, stillness can be (mis)interpreted as stagnant and that stagnant can be read as death. Something key to think about when you consider how cultural identity is under attack.
More later especially when it comes to how the individual places themselves in movement and how the movement classifies the individuall.