I’ve been thinking about the story Jon Bowles told our staff earlier this week. Jon’s church, Beggar’s Table, brought in a poet named Kevin Coval. Coval is kind of a big deal, and is an unlikely person to do a reading in a Christian church. First of all, he’s Jewish. He’s also profane, and a little shocking at times. But Coval is part of an emerging art from that I think could be important. Mostly, he is leaning into the prophetic tradition, so I’m inclined to listen. Coval is part of what is called hip-hop poetics. He’s a stunning performer and writer. I use those terms in that order because his poetic sensibility is meant to be performed more than read from a page.
Coval said during his reading at Beggar’s that he thought stand up comedians are the modern prophets because they are able to say what everyone else knows to be true, but can’t (or won’t), say out loud. Coval is attempting to do a similar thing – to curate an uncomfortable conversation in a public space. The clip above is an example of what Coval is talking about. Louis C.K is profane and offensive – two things that were always said about the prophets, by the way – and he is able to help us see ourselves and our lives from a critical perspective. There is something prophetic about what he does – at least some of it.
Here’s another video of Coval performing a poem called “My g-dself Loose.”