« Sonnets to Metaphysical poems=Aging | Main | Sonnet 116 »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I think your "rant" as you called has harsh criticism of Spoken Word. That being said, I think that most everything you stated is an accurate representation of how spoken word works. Because of the demographics of the club the sad fact is that anything someone lacking in the melanin department says regarding club will come off as racist. I agree that the club is definitely a break from what is generally perceived as poetry, however I would consider it a new-age poetry. Just like rap, or hip-hop, poetry is being adapted to bridge cultural lines. White men have no viable claim to know the definition, like music, and art poetry develops in a socio-historic context and I think that we are starting to see a major shift in poetry in the form of Spoken Word.

It's not too late Christian! But seriously I agree. I have always though spoken word at OPRF has turned into a contest of who either has or fabricates the saddest story. And that is what the judges/audience responds to. So why don't we present anything else to challenge this? People have. And they get shot down. I think the popularity of spoken word speaks more for the values of Oak Park rather than as an example of poetry.

Zach is totally right about the racism thing, but I try not to think about it in racial terms. The white spoken word artists I've seen are pretty much the same as the black ones. And then, if spoken word is going to be considered poetry, then I would just argue that poetry is simply going very far downhill these days, just as most art is (in my opinion, not to sound like an old fart).

Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets, just saying.

You bring up interesting points, if a little biased, haha.
I just thought I would make note that Spoken Word, which you seem to call one of the lowest forms of prose/poetry to date, holds roots in variations and styles that were once highly respected, namely Beat Poetry (well, now that I've said, that, 'highly respected' depending on who you ask haha).

I agree with both Christian and Matt that Spoken Word is a battle to see who has the hardest life, whether fabricated or true, and certainly a few tears and a quivering voice adds to the effect. Sadly in the words of Ben Folds being "male, middle class, and white" doesn't make for an interesting poem, which is why i feel any attempt to reform from within will have no effect.

I agree with you, especially that when Mr. Kahn teaches us Spoken Word poetry, he only accepts cliched poems that all sound that same. And although a lot of spoken word fits this description, I also think that the concept of spoken word isn't bad in itself, a lot of it is in the way it is taught and has usually been done, if that makes any sense...

But the subject of the poems doesn't have to be my life or anything to do with it. That's all they write about, but why not write love poems? War poems? Narrative poems? etc...

To the first comment, assuming something like that is very stupid and provoking, this coming from someone who has a bit more melanin. Having been in the club and taken part in a showcase I can say that some of the white males such as Kahn's revered Aaron Levin have had a very big say in the structure of the club, influence on the poems written and judgement of poems passed within the club. Perhaps it is because of assumptions such as your own that you do not see very many caucasion people in Spoken word Club.
Anyways, although you see the sob stories as the prevalent poems coming out of the club it's not because that is what was taught, but rather that mostly people with those stories find poetry to be their outlet. That being said, I agree it needs a shift in mood and topic, I think Kahn does what he can but more needs to be taught about literary devices.

Be careful of making hasty -- and dangerous -- generalizations here. Especially when you might only have a limited experience with something.

I'm not trying to squash any voices here -- but you might consider qualifying a few of your statements a bit more ...

I wouldn't worry so much about being perceived as racist when dissing Spoken Word. I would worry more about just being insensitive. Clearly the club means a lot to a lot of people. It's undeniably a great community. And whether your like the poetry or not, it's one of the only spaces I know of where teenagers spend their free time reading and writing poetry.

Talking about the quality of the poetry at a specific Spoken Word showcase -- that's totally valid (although there's are spaces and ways to do it that are more appropriate). But when is the last time you've been to a Spoken Word showcase? What are you basing your 99% statistic on? That poetic stereotyping is what will bother people -- more than the racial kind.

While reading through the post and all the comments, I was captivated by this conversation. I have to admit, at face value, I agreed with almost everything that was said here, but then I had to reevaluate myself and think for a bit: Spoken Word poets write about their lives (no matter how cliched they seem sometimes), as poets are supposed to do. But, when I watch the spoken word showcases and slams and assembly performances, I find that the most moving poems are just the most moving stories. If your dad left you when you were born and your mom is a drug addict, that's a sad and moving story as it is, and I feel like the saddest story is the biggest winner. I'm not trying to demean those obviously devastating stories, so don't label me as condescending. It's their lives, so they have all artistic license. It is a wonderful outlet for the students to express themselves. But I know some of the students who participate in Spoken Word and I know that they are some of the funniest, liveliest people in this school. I just wish that they didn't always feel the need to don that somber "spoken word" mask and suprise us with a light-hearted, comedic poem every once and a while.

Sorry, that was really, really long.

I just chanced on this blog in the early hours (really early) of a winter's day, some time after the last registered comment, so this may hardly be read, but as someone who uses the art of spoken word/ performance poetry professionally, primarily for storytelling, and for use as the basis for creating art in other mediums. Perhaps one or two of you would be enlightened to hear / read something outside what you have hither to been exposed to. If so go to www.dcosmic.com, try the portfolio section to choose what medium you would like to interact with the spoken word in...
hopefully you'll see more possibilities after your visit



First and foremost, even though it's given that this post is 2 years old -
let's try and make some things clear, and i hope that this post will eventually inform some of those who are simply curious about spoken word. Spoken Word is a universal art form that has been around for centuries, even through ancient story telling. I will try my best to break the ignorant comments that have been posted here, especially with me being a spoken word artist myself. It is absolutely farcical to attempt to include "race" on the verge of spoken word. If you watch Def Poetry, or even ever been to any real Venues with this art form, then you would already understand the value that it has on people. "Spoken Word Vs Real Poetry"...i'm almost left ineffable on that topic. What kind of person would actually waste their time posting something like this anyway? Do you not realize that even long before there were any written languages, story telling was a creative and expressive way of creating something thats "Poetic". Whoever comments on the facts that Spoken word is only entitled to the lives and the personal expierences of those who perform it is totally faulty logical. There are thousands of spoken word artist that create and have distinctive things to say, just like poetry itself. They don't all "rant" about their personal messed up experiences. Before you put out any accusations on the internet, make sure that you get your facts straight..beacause i guarntee you in real life, you'll be feeling out of place.

Well, Sir I apologize. You seem to have been witness to some poor quality of spoken word poetry. It is insensitive and close-minded of you to disregard spoken word as if it is not a poetic form. I don't know who told the academic world that they know and own the only one method of writing poetry. While you dote on the "classics" not every person or does relate to those poetic forms or the subject they discuss. Those "sad stories" most of those poets are relating are true and speaking on them is the only thing that keeps most of them sane. I guess they should just cut themselves instead. But if sad stories from inner city youth and the like bother you then maybe you should become a social activist and make the world a better place, but you can't condemn people for writing about their own experiences and you can't say that what they write isn't poetry just because YOU just don't get it.

P.S. The internet is filled with free information. If you can't name a spoken word artist it's probably because you haven't informed yourself. I suggest you get to it.

Your criticism of spoken word poetry is lacking substance and almost entirely a straw-man argument based on one person's erroneous version of what spoken word poetry ought to be. Good spoken word poetry can't be merely "assigned" in a class. That is ridiculous. You can talk about certain literary techniques people use in order to convey ideas but the poetry itself has to come from what i call "natural inspiration".

You are correct that spoken word poetry is very different from other forms of poetry. It is often just somebody spouting off about "angrily spouting off about how miserable their life is". There is a reason for that. The poetry is supposed to be an argument. Not only that, it's supposed to be an argument grounding in reason, NOT IN EVIDENCE. I emphasize this because far too often in today's culture, evidence is given precedent over philosophical and logically consistent reasoning. That is important.

Spoken word poetry hearkens back to ancient Greek ideas of what is virtuous, moral, just, and fare. It's not about merely eliciting emotional responses from the audience. It's about confronting their ideas of morality and justice. It's very difficult to do this when confined to specific structure that most alternate forms of poetry require.

That's what your teacher should have said to you. Maybe then you would understand the value of spoken word poetry.

The comments to this entry are closed.