Looking for a healthy dose of word play, rhythm, intense imagery, and engaging showmanship?
Look no farther than Spoken Word poetry. It has always been around, but with the emergence of Youtube and other social media platforms, the art form has seen a flurry of new, at times viral, activity. Whether you’re a newcomer Spoken Word, or an old pro, I’ve compiled a list of five powerful performances to share with you today. You may have caught these scrolling along your newsfeed, but I find it’s always rewarding to make a cup of tea and give yourself thirty minutes to enjoy the music, the metaphor, and the storytelling of Spoken Word.
Anis Mojgani performs “Shake the Dust”
This is the Spoken Word performance that opened my eyes to the world of “Stage Poetry”. Offbeat, unexpected, and uplifting, Mojgani has much to offer in this poem. The performance exemplifies my favorite thing about the oral art form — a high premium on honesty and authenticity. There is no place for the tired or cliched in Spoken Word. The truly amazing performances are riveting precisely because you are in someone else’s thought-stream, pulled into the emotion and imagery as if the person were next to you telling you the story one-on-one.
Blythe Baird performs “Pocket-Sized Feminism”
The timing in Baird’s poem is really what packs the punch. The last line hangs in the open, almost with an unfinished sentiment that is ripe with a disbelief and frustration with society’s stance on gender roles and stereotypes. This is a great example of how Spoken Word embraces the most difficult questions in our society and gives them an explosive, raw outlet. The issues are brought before you in a way that inspires awe and also an undeniable current of energy. The art is very community-based, and the energy in the audience, even a removed audience watching via Youtube, is palpable.
Sarah Kay performs “If I Should Have a Daughter…”
Sarah Kay has certainly seen her fair share of fame lately, thanks to a few of her performances going viral on social media. This poem in particular is a fan favorite. Kay’s performance is riveting, her rhythm alternating between hushed pauses and weighty whispers as well as dazzling incantations and earnest music. This particular performance kicks off a fantastic TED talk and holds an entire audience on the edge of their seats. Kay’s combination of well-wrought imagery and passion is the driving force behind this piece. When you watch her perform, it truly seems as if she is throwing herself fully into her art.
Shane Koyczan performs “To This Day”
A friend first introduced me to Shane Koyczan on a hunch that I’d enjoy his work and the missions behind his poetry. Koyczan is a delight. Not only does he use Spoken Word to further good causes, he also explores different vehicles for his rhythms and stories. In “To This Day”, he creates a colorful, beautifully timed animation to set the backdrop for his powerful performance. In other cases, it’s just him and a mic on stage. No matter the medium, Koyczan delivers warm, passionate, humorous, and thought-provoking performances that leave you energized and thinking you can make a difference in the world.
Jared Singer performs “The last love letter from an Entomologist…”
I stumbled on Singer’s poem while cruising the Internet late one night. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the title, but what came next surprised me. As someone with a life-long fear of spiders, I did not expect insects to be as romantic (albeit in a grotesque kind of way) as Singer makes them. This is truly a love poem, and it’s delivered in a quirky, comical, and passionate way that will intrigue even the most hardened cynic. Singer delivers his performance with an earnest tone that builds momentum as he works his way through the daily romances in the insect world, and works his way up to the reflection on his own love life.
That’s all I have for you today, but I encourage you to start searching around. There is a wealth of Spoken Word poetry on Youtube, so much so that choosing five almost seemed like madness. Button Poetry is a particular favorite Youtube channel of mine. I find that most of their videos get picked up and go viral — with good reason, as the poets they feature don’t shy away from hard topics and are exceptionally passionate. If you’re on the prowl for more great performances, I’d start there. Happy listening!
- Shake the Dust: TWLOHA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qDtHdloK44)
- Pocket-Sized Feminism: Button Poetry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT74LH0W8ig)
- If I Should Have a Daughter: TED (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0snNB1yS3IE)
- To This Day: Shane Koyczan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY)
- The Last Love Letter From An Entomologist: Speak Easy NYC (https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=B3wsSdPzAuQ)