ROGUE SOUNDS: T-Poe’s ‘Simply am a Sayer’ is Clean, Simple and Solid
In a smaller market like the Rogue Valley, there are some fingers that seem to be in every pie. The property management company that controls every building, the entrepreneur that owns every business, the performers and artists involved in every happening.
T Poe Varnado is such a performer. The Ashland poet hosts multiple live poetry events, has been a featured performer at OSF, and can be found lurking in the live performances and music videos of many a local band. About the only place you couldn’t find him was on tape. Until recently that is.
T Poe recently released his first album of poetry, Simply am a Sayer, featuring original spoken-word performances over music beds courtesy of another omnipresent local act, The Brothers Reed.
The collection has 24 tracks covering a variety of topics about modern life. But T Poe returns frequently to his experiences in the Vietnam War, discussing life on a patrol boat, life stateside, and what it was like to see friends die. Some are terrifyingly earnest, like when T Poe says, “yeah, I’m a little bit racist,” or extolls his addictions in verse. He cracks a few jokes at the expense of the T.S.A., warning them not to “touch my junk,” in the poem of the same name. Some work to impart learned wisdom, like “The Bold Solution,” which offers revolution advice to the kids based on living through the ’60s.
Poetry is to taste—both the poems themselves, and the medium at large. But in this critic’s opinion, it works better spoken than written down, as the performance serves to clarify the emotional intent of what are often muddled texts. That indie poetry albums are now becoming as much of a thing as chapbooks is a great step forward. And when they come with high production value like, Simply am a Sayer, it makes the medium that much richer.
And also in this critic’s opinion, T Poe is a poet whose work shines a bit brighter on tape than live. The delivery is slow and delicate, with T Poe’s gravelly baritone humming like the rumble of a passing train. In a live environment full of lights and sounds and bar chatter, it can sometimes fall flat. On tape where the sonic environment is controlled and focused, it is soothing and engaging. Especially with the light touches of piano and guitar from The Brothers Reed. The music tracks take great care not to be showy so the words can stay in the forefront. As a poetry album, it’s a solid entry in the local canon.
But as mentioned, it’s not for everyone, a value-judgment that likely goes hand in hand with one’s feelings on poetry in general. But if that’s your jam, Simply am a Sayer, is worth a listen.
Simply am a Sayer, is only available in hard copies at T Poe’s live performances, including the monthly Rogue Poetry Slam held at Caldera Tap House, and the spoken word open mic at Milagro’s in Ashland.