Spoken word can be described as poetry that is written to be performed. According to Sarah Kay, it is “the bastard child of poetry and centuries of griot tradition, fusing creative wordplay with shiny performance.”
Spoken word utilizes concrete language, word play, and rhythm to tell stories. Through the use of vivid imagery, the listener is able to “feel” the words as they are being spoken. Many literary devices, like metaphor, can be used to help the audience visualize the story. And although the stories may be humorous, serious, sad, or painful, they remain true to the emotion of the speaker. Some pieces may lack a definite beginning, middle, or end, but it may be in that absence that the audience finds something to relate to.
The beautiful thing about spoken word is that a person is allowed to give his or her perspective on a certain topic without fear of debate. It is an open display of the soul. With this medium, an individual is able to express feelings of anger and grief about current events, and the audience is given a front row seat to the inner workings of the artist’s mind. Spoken word pieces can involve any life experience from losing a first tooth to losing one’s virginity to losing one’s child. The range is endless.
Spoken word makes it possible for a person to see the who, what, when, where, why, and how of situations that would usually go unexplored. For example, when dealing with topics like race, an individual is able to give the reason for the emotion, where it stemmed from, and when it began. A barrier is broken, and the artist and the audience can both marvel about what is known about the unknown. They may not know each other’s fears, but they know the tickle of stomach butterflies and the discomfort of that knot that forms at the base of the throat.
Spoken word artist, Sarah Kay shared that she writes poetry as a way to work through things she doesn’t understand, and she wants her students to use spoken word to “rediscover wonder, to fight their instincts to be cool and unfazed.”
Most of all — spoken word is a spiritual cleanser. With it, the weight of daily obstacles can be extracted and put into words. The writer must engage with his or her own emotion. Through this process, a writers begin to learn about themselves in a whole new light.
So get mad or upset or even elated, and go write something!