Karaoke + Poetry = Fun, or KPF, is a reading series in which poets read poems and sing a karaoke song. They read their poems, and then the song begins. Or the other way around. The poet might say something before the song begins, perhaps relating the song to either their own life or the poem the poet has just read.
KPF has taken place at five venues, among them the Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan, The Spotty Dog in Hudson, NY, and Valentine’s in Albany, NY. It began at Gowanus Lounge, an old bathhouse in Brooklyn. If you want to bring KPF to your town, contact me and let’s talk. I have the posters and large-format sign for the state, the song forms. If you can find a karaoke set-up or a host, we’re in business! Or, better yet, start one in your own community, steal this logo, and sing Bon Jovi with your poet-friends. Send me pictures and videos.
I started the series around 2003, when I realized a venue I was setting up a reading at had a full-fledged karaoke setup. The idea of combining karaoke and poetry came from my own nervousness before poetry readings. When I noticed that I had that same energy when I would go to a karaoke bar before my turn came to sing a song, I thought what would it be like to combine the two, lighten up the poetry proceedings and see what it would be like if poets released a nervous energy or had some other performance to worry about when they were also reading their poetry.
Of course it was also meant to be a joke. Of course the idea that it would be ridiculous to combine poetry and karaoke would be preposterous, low-brow, idiotic, nuts. All those things. Part of my intention was also to loosen up non-performance-oriented poets, show them in a different light. A poet once read a love poem, and then brought down the house with “Me and Bobby McGee.” And it was great to hear her make those connections. This happens all the time at KPF.
Why do I do KPF? Because it’s fun. Because I like to be with other poets and see them sing. Because karaoke is the great equalizer. Because it’s an icebreaker. Because I personally like to see what poets pick for their songs–I get to know them better, and so does the audience, when we see what song they sing, how they sing it. Because poetry is regarded as a super-serious formal diction speech thing that this is perhaps a more in-your-face defiance of the establishment than even writing critical articles shunning big bad academia. Because poetry gets boring and the short format is better in these trying times. Because, as Yeats writes in “Sailing to Byzantium,” “Nor is there singing school but studying monuments of its own significance.” Because poems are closer to song. Because I think poets should address the world around them, and what better way than singing Britney Spears or Elvis Presley?