Oral storytelling is a tradition that seems to date back to the birth of human communication itself. As much as technology has progressed, bringing new forms and genres of storytelling, the power of the spoken word has remained strong. In most major cities poetry nights will be going down in bars on at least a weekly basis, usually featuring older established poets but keeping space for young and fresh talent to emerge. But if getting yourself to an open mic night on a Friday is not your thing, spoken word poetry is widely available on the internet. Check out the YouTube channel, Button Poetry, various Ted features and Upworthy links. Spoken word is where it’s at and here are the reasons why:
Spoken word poetry is accessible.
I don’t know how many times I have heard people say that they don’t “get” poetry, even as a poetry lover myself, I can understand where they are coming from. Spending hours at high school underlining metaphors and discussing ‘literary devices’ leaves many students feeling disengaged, which is sad because of the power poetry has to connect readers and writers. Spoken word doesn’t have the highbrow and esoteric following of much written poetry; you don’t need a literature degree to be into spoken word, you just need to be willing to immerse yourself in stories. Spoken word is poetry by the people and for the people, young and old, experienced and amateur, literary or not so much.
Spoken word is cathartic.
All of the best spoken word I have seen is emotionally moving, and it is my belief that poetry is not so much meant to be understood but to be felt. The stronger the emotional core of a poem, the more powerful it will be, and this can provide not just a release for the speaker, but also an emotional release for audience members. Art can provide a powerful outlet for repressed feelings and memories, which can be great for our mental health.
Spoken word provides a space for progressive ideas.
From feminism to racial and social inequality, there is something about spoken word that encourages speakers to question and cast a critical eye on the world we live in. I love subversive art of any form, because it has the power to discomfort us, to open our minds and to increase our empathy and understanding. In spoken word there is a crossover between the personal and the political. Through everyday experiences we are urged to see how power dynamics play out, for example, watch Crystal Valentine discuss Black Privilege (or the lack thereof), addressing an important social issue from her personal standpoint.
Spoken word is an intimate, interactive performance.
Spoken word is not only about the text, it’s about the performance, voice, movement and bringing the words to life. Spoken word performers have presence. Sometimes poets forget their lines, sometimes they make them up as they go along, sometimes they laugh, ad lib, respond to audience members, but as long as they are present it doesn’t matter, it leaves room for interaction and spontaneity.
In the age of digital distraction, turning off the phone and being present in a room with someone who is spilling out their heart and soul is insanely refreshing and will leave you wanting more.Support Villainesse