Spoken Word Poetry

Recently, while skimming through some TED Talks, I came upon a talk done by Sarah Kay on Spoken Word Poetry. Prior to this talk, I had never heard of spoken word. I assumed it was when poets traveled to different cafés, universities, and book stores to read their recently published work. But I soon discovered it is a little more involved than that.

Spoken word is performance poetry that uses alliteration, puns, rhyme, and song in its prose or verse to convey social commentary.

As a writer as well as someone who geeks out when attending productions, such as plays and musicals, I was thrilled at this new find. As Sarah Kay puts it, “I felt that my two secret loves, poetry and theatre, had come together and had a baby – a baby I needed to get to know.”

Spoken word is the art of turning over phrases. It uses words and their meanings to comment on societal, cultural, and universal topics. Most poetry already does this, or tries to. But spoken word is actually performed, which gives it an edge. Told in the first person, spoken word performances are typically not overdone or exaggerated with crazy props or costumes. Instead, the poet simply uses her words to captivate the audience, leaving the rest to the listener’s imagination.

Here is Sarah performing at one of the TED Talk conferences: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0snNB1yS3IE

But I must tell you, although I just recently came upon Sarah Kay’s performances, spoken word is not new to this century, or even the century prior. Spoken word is the art of storytelling, which is something humans have done since first communicating through language.

If you read one of my older blog posts you are familiar with my love for Geoffrey Chaucer. He, in fact, is a brilliant spoken word poet. Read The Canterbury Tales and tell me he is not adept in the art of storytelling and acute satire, I dare you. And, one of the most legendary and well known spoken word poets is Homer with The Odyssey, which many people read in high school. The Odyssey is a well known Greek epic poem meant to be performed orally rather than read.

These talented and intelligent poets have had great influence on modern spoken word poetry. Some modern spoken word poets I like are John G. Rives, Phil Kaye, and Hedwig Gorski. There are many more talented performers, which I encourage you to listen to and learn from if you are as interested as I am in spoken word. And, feel free to peruse Sarah Kay’s website: http://www.kaysarahsera.com/

I also recommend this poem by Shappy Seasholtz called “Spoken Nerd.” This guy not only references Star Wars, but has incredible energy. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od0zTP3LgmI

Lastly, if you are not familiar with TED Talks, please visit their website: http://www.ted.com/talks. You will learn so much from those who are outstanding in their fields (much like the scarecrow!).

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