Today in class, Mr. Heidkamp brought up the subject of Spoken Word. I must admit I perked up a bit at the idea, for it's something I've often thought about and debated with my circle of friends. This might be a bit controversial, but here are my thoughts on the issue.
I believe there is most certainly a divide between the "poetry" one might hear at a Spoken Word showcase and the poetry that one would read in a book (say Shakespeare's Sonnets or Whitman's Leaves of Grass), and we will assume that this is true for the purposes of this argument. I am not here to argue one way or the other, but to say why poetry of the Shakespeare-Dickinson-Whitman-Poe-etc. variety is much better than, uh...I'm sorry, I can't even name a famous spoken word artist.
My first complaint, and Mr. Heidkamp mentioned this, there are two types of spoken word poems. The first is somebody angrily spouting off about how miserable their life is. The second is anything that's not that. The first category encompasses about 99% of spoken word poetry.
One thing that is very noticeable is that whenever Mr. Kahn invades your English class for a few days to teach about poetry, there is a system down for how he teaches you to write your spoken word poem: first, he teaches you what a metaphor is (no matter what grade you're in or how many times you've taken this lesson), then teaches you that every good poem must have a metaphor. If yours does not contain a metaphor, he will not think very highly of it. Pay no heed to any other literary techniques or devices, for the metaphor is king in spoken word poetry.
Here's another thing. The powers of description and comparison seem to be lost on these "poets," which leads to awkward and distracting similes like "Hey eyes stared intently across the room at me, piercing me like a knife through butter." Not only is it obviously a cliche, but it's totally unnecessary. All I mean by this is that most of the writers know little to nothing about actually writing poetry, and they end up being quite poorly constructed, in my opinion.
I admit that this is a rant. I just realized it's actually pretty long for one of these blog posts, so if you kept reading, I commend you. I will stop now even though there is a ton more I could say. Maybe if anyone comments, I'll talk a little more in the comments.
My biggest regret is not joining spoken word myself so perhaps I could change the system from within.