So, I went to a slam poetry workshop led by Charles Hamilton – the fellow in the above video. He is a wonderful spoken word poet who is passionate about the artform. The workshop was fairly free form – he kept wondering aloud if we were learning anything. I don’t know about the other participants, but I definitely came away with a lot of great stuff. I received feedback about a poem I’ve been adapting to be a spoken word poem. What feels awesome is the validation – I actually write pretty well. What needs work is the delivery. This could mean changing the poem a bit, but mostly it means working on the delivery. Slam poetry, spoken word poetry, is an immediate artform. There’s something visceral about it. You can’t see the words. You can’t read ahead. You can’t absorb it all at once like you can with a small page poem. You feel each word as it’s delivered by the poet. The poet determines the rhythm, the cadence, the moment a word is delivered, the emotion, the volume with which each word is delivered. A spoken word poem is experienced, it is felt, it isn’t – by definition – read. It is the same, or similar, for the poet. There must be something real in the delivery. And, I use the word ‘delivery’ deliberately. Delivering a spoken word poem is much more than performance. The poem is the poet – as cheesy and McLuhan-esque as that sounds. The poet is sending a piece of himself out into the world. A dramatic performance or recitation isn’t expected to involve real emotion. A spoken word poem is always expected to be real. A spoken word poem is expected to evoke emotion in both the poet delivering it and in the audience experiencing it.
I am looking forward to delivering a poem or two for an audience in the near future. The issue I am facing is writing poems fit for spoken word delivery. It isn’t that I’m trying to make them clever or rhyme. I’m trying to make them real. I want to represent my own feelings in ways that resonate on a universal level. I want how I felt when my daughter was born to ring true for the audience. I want my fear of The Bomb and Cold War monsters to touch people who didn’t grow up during the Cold War.
Poems may be short, but they’re bloody complicated! Still, I am having a crazy love affair with poetry, especially spoken word poetry, right now. I’m hoping to do it justice with my writing and spoken word work in the future.