The Art of Spoken Word Poetry

“Love Poem Medley” – Rudy Francisco

Poetry is a classic art form dating back to the Vedas and the ancient Greek epic poem, the “Odyssey.” The beauty of poetry stems from the diversity of form, style, and voice. Like classic literature, every poem is uniquely written to express the human experience, but spoken word poetry uses language in such a different manner to depict imagery and describe emotion that it created its own new culture.

Over time, poetry has evolved.7ab6686378c13928f9c3b241cadb73e0 It began as a method to orally pass down legends from generation to generation. Rhythms and rhymes allowed people to remember the stories being told and helped them relay the poetry to new listeners. It then transformed into a written art connected to romance and nature. Poetry continued to morph throughout the years into a more physical art, as the lines started to create pictures and shapes that appealed visually to readers. In her YA novels, author Ellen Hopkins wrote prose poetry in various shapes to symbolize the emotions portrayed in her work. If her characters felt they were being watched, her poems were in the shape of an eye. If her characters felt that they were running out of time, her poem took the form of an hourglass. However, poetry somewhat revolved back to its roots and evolved in terms of the sound. Thus, spoken word poetry was created, and this contemporary form has captured the interest amongst a new generation of poets.

Spoken word poetry tends to focus on specific emotions that relate to contemporary struggles, including love, divorce, poverty, social inequity, and educational institutions. Instead of simply reading the poetry, spoken word allows an audience to hear the passion in the speaker’s voice and better understand the overall message of the piece. Rudy Francisco, a spoken word poet from San Diego, California, is a personal favorite of mine. The intensity of his voice can stun an audience, while people can see, feel, and hear the emotions in his gestures, eyes, and words. That’s the beauty of spoken word poetry though—audiences can experience poetry through multiple senses. Instead of just reading a poem and experiencing the words via sight and sound, if read aloud, spoken word poetry allows people to hear the voice of the poem as the artist intended it. While listening to Rudy Francisco’s “Love Poem,” audience members cannot help but cheer and holler because the artistry in his combinations of words are so clever and poignant. If the lines, “I would massage your back until your skin sings songs that your lips don’t even know the words to. Until your heart beat sounds like my last name,” were simply read, it would not have the same effect on the audience when Francisco impressively recites it from memory.

I had the pleasure of talking to Patrice Mead, a spoken word poet at California State University, Northridge, about her thoughts about and involvement with the art. When asked what spoken word poetry is, she responded:

“Most people would picture spoken word as a candle-lit poetry performance, with an ambiance of snapping fingers and dark clothing accessorized with Kangol hats. This is the stereotypical image of poetry, and after being involved in the community for some time now, I know that there is so much more depth behind the average depiction. Spoken word is the art of storytelling, coated in wordplay and unique textures of metaphorical language. The performance aspect of this art form and the life that is brought to each word is what separates spoken word poetry from written poetry.”

As a representative of the CSUN Slam Poetry Team, who have competed nationally in multiple states, Patrice hit the nail on the head. “Spoken word is the art of storytelling.” It’s a new form of storytelling compared to the Greek methods centuries ago, but nonetheless, it is still the epitome of a contemporary classic. Spoken word takes the best of the classic and combines it with mesmerizing content and a respectful, energetic vibe from an audience, creating a new art form that will continue for years to come.

Here are some of our Editors’ favorites:

“Maybe I Need You” – Andrea Gibson

“Lois Lane” – A collaboration with choreographer Keone Madrid featuring Rudy Francisco

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