A Study in Spoken Word
When we hear the word “poetry,” what often comes to mind are flowery words with rhythm that rhyme. Poetry, however, has evolved into many things: songs, monologues, rap, and even stand-up comedy. Recently, a new form of poetry is becoming more and more popular—spoken word.
Oral tradition existed even before writing systems were developed, so spoken word has existed for a very long time. The aim of modern spoken word poetry is to use words to project images, sounds, and other sensations onto the minds of listeners.
Spoken word, is also known as performance art or slam poetry. Competitive spoken word is said to have originated from the Harlem Renaissance Blues music, as well as the 1960’s Beat Generation. The Civil Rights Movement, particularly Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” was said to have influenced the spoken word movement within the African American Community. The Last Poets was a poetry and political music group from the 1960s that helped increase the popularity of spoken word.
Competitions in poetry slam started in the 1980s, and the first National Poetry Slam took place in 1990 in San Francisco. The poetry slam movement continued to grow because of Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry, which aired in HBO from 2002 to 2007.
At present, slam poetry continues to increase popularity through videos shared on YouTube by channels such as Youth Speaks and Button Poetry.
A Guide to Slam Poetry
There are no specific guidelines to slam poetry. However, there are elements that make them unique.
Slam poems are intended for performance. They may not seem as powerful when read, but performers can interpret them differently once read aloud. Performers can use dynamics, pacing, and pausing for effect. Rhythm and rhyme schemes may also be used, giving some slam poems a more hip-hop feel. A little acting is also welcomed to further illustrate poetry.
Most topics used in slam poetry are heavy issues such as race, discrimination, sexuality, and more. This is because in essence, slam poetry intends to trigger responses from a live audience. It intends to connect performers to their audience in a deeper way. Moreover, it is a platform not only for creative expression but also for social change.
**Disclaimer: Image is not ours. Credit to their respective owners.