“You’re So Cute” by Sam Rush [Poetry Review]

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Performance poetry is probably the closest I come to being comfortable dealing with poetry. I think this probably has to do with

  1. the rhythm of these poems which reminds me of music, and
  2. years of performing on a stage myself (though I rarely had to write my own material).

It’s a style that has so much power behind it because you can actually hear the emotions of the writer; you can hear as they gasp for breath, their voice crack and softened. It’s compelling to watch someone who can make you feel everything they have felt in a matter of minutes.

While Rush puts on an excellent performance, this poem is on the lighter side of this than some of the other poems I have hear and yet there are still incredibly powerful moments when I had to rewind and make sure I remembered what he said.

You’re so cute I gathered up all 27 half-finished cups of coffee.

There is such a strong sense of humor in this poem–you get it from the very first lines–that it had me laughing while I watched the performance. This is the kind of performance poetry that really takes advantage of the stage and the audience. I have seen poets perform their poems simply by reading them and it can take away some of the power of the words. When you read them you give them a voice of your own: emphasis words that stand out to you, set a pace, and pull from emotions. But if the poet can’t put that into a live performance something is lost in the words.

Rush does not fall into this trap.

You’re so cute and I don’t believe in crushes. And by that I mean I don’t believe in crushing a person beneath the weight of what you need them to be.

A super important part of a live performance is audience interaction. It’s more than just getting a laugh when you finish your joke–it’s about feeling the energy of the space and judging how to change what you’re doing, and you can only know what the energy is after you’ve stepped on the stage. I know it sounds a bit wishy-washy to be talking about “reading energy” but it’s the best way I can think to describe it. It’s knowing when to pause, what words to emphasis to get the reaction you want, whether to pull the audience into the performance or keep the real and fake worlds separate. It’s something you fail at many times until you just get it.

Rush gets it in this performance. It helps that the crowd has some pretty amazing reactions to what he’s doing and wants to be a part of the experience. It’s possible part of what makes this performance fun even when it ventures into darker places is because of that enthusiasm. I tried to find other performances of the same poem but had no luck. I wanted to see what changed if the audience changed, or if Rush would change up the words or at least how the words were delivered. It would make an interesting comparison.

I thought about giving this poem a rating as I do with many of the things I write about but it somehow didn’t feel right. There are so many reasons I enjoyed watching this performance multiple times but there are also reasons why I think it isn’t fair to compare it with other poems that are similar. The message is pretty simple–love yourself–and there isn’t any imagery that blew me away. However, there is an elegance to its simplicity.

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