As an aspiring writer, I usually draw inspirations for my own writing by reading works from other authors. Most of my writing pieces are short stories, but when inspiration hits, I write the occasional poem.
In general, I think all poems are beautiful and are a unique way of expressing a writer’s inner thoughts and feelings. However, the poems that resonate with me most are the heartbreaking and somewhat upsetting ones, because they hit home with a lot of people and they often tell the story of an emotional journey.
For my article this week, I went searching for some slam poetry performances on YouTube and wanted to share them with you! I’ll include both my favorite sections of each poem and the videos, along with letting you know why I chose the ones that I did. I hope you like them as much as I did!
1. Neil Hilborn: “OCD”
“She told me that she shouldn’t have let me get so attached to her; that this whole thing was a mistake, but...
How can it be a mistake that I don’t have to wash my hands after I touch her?
Love is not a mistake, and it’s killing me that she can run away from this and I just can’t.
I can’t go out and find someone new because I always think of her.”
I actually watched this slam poetry performance a few years ago in high school and it made me just as teary-eyed then as it does now. I think the way this poem was written is fantastic, because it explores two important aspects about Hilborn’s that play a significant role in his thoughts and experiences: his battle with OCD and his love for his ex-girlfriend. Through this poem, the audience is able to sympathize with Hilborn as he talks about the fact that although OCD dominates a large portion of his life, his ex-girlfriend was the one person who was able to calm him down when his compulsions were strong, but his OCD is also the reason why she left him. It’s a deeply moving and heartbreaking poem to watch, but definitely worth listening to.
2. Patrick Roche: “21”
“15. I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again,
Because maybe he found out I’m gay.
Like if he could make everything else blurry, maybe somehow I’d look straight.”
I watched this performance twice and I think Roche’s delivery is of this poem is outstanding. In the poem, Roche talks about his father’s increasing alcoholism over the course of his life which ultimately lead to his death. I thought it was extremely creative of Roche to assign each year of his life to a phase in his father’s alcoholism. As the years get younger, you come to understand how upsetting it was for Roche to have a father who was an alcoholic, a man he used to admire more who he had once compared to Spider Man. It’s a refreshingly raw performance and I’ll definitely be sending the link to some friends to listen to this!
3. Lily Myers: “Shrinking Women”
“And I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
Making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
Not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.”
In a lot of slam poems I watch, many poets focus on one person, but in this one Myers takes a different route. She decides to not only talk about her mother, but also her brother, her father, her grandparents, and her family in general. It is a very unique poem to listen to, and her message around many women feeling like they have to feel small to let the men in their life feel dominant and large is also one I’d never thought about, so hearing her bring up this observation was really thought-provoking. I really enjoyed the way she presented the poem, and her tone was very captivating and her words were well articulated. It was definitely a thought provoking piece for me to see!
4. Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye: “When Love Arrives”
“Maybe Love is in New York City already asleep,
You are in California, Australia, wide awake.
Maybe Love is always in the wrong timezone.
Maybe Love is not ready for you,
Maybe you are not ready for Love.”
My favorite aspect of this poem is the personification of “Love”, and how the poets describe Love like a person. I think this performance was incredibly well done, and it’s interesting to have two poets perform the poem together. I liked how they put a positive light on falling in love and presenting a well-rounded representation of it, telling people that even if the person you love isn’t always perfect you love them all the same. It was a very heartwarming poem that I’ll have to make sure to watch again the next time I need a mood boost!
5. Emi Mahmoud: “Head Over Heels”
“My mind echoes through the numbers:
One million gone, 400,000 dead in Darfur,
Two million displaced and this lump takes over my throat
As if each of those bodies found a grave right here in my esophagus.”
When I saw the title of the poem, I thought it would be connected to love, since the saying goes “Falling head over heels” for someone. However, after I watched it, I saw I was way off. In her poem, Mahmoud talks about the refugee crisis in Sudan, and how it’s insane that people want her to summarize the event as if what she’s experienced can be translated into simple facts. I like this poem a lot because it’s informative and also moving, and makes you realize that people’s grief cannot be expressed simply through a few words. Mahmoud achieves this through channeling her emotion into her voice while speaking, and her descriptions throughout the poem express her frustration.
6. Rudy Francisco: “Scars/To the New Boyfriend”
From Part One:
“I dipped my hands in forever
I touched you infinity
I treated you as if you were the last molecule of oxygen inside of a gas chamber,
I was...good to you.”
From Part Two:
I was told that time would heal all wounds.
But what exactly do you do on days
when it feels like the hands on your clock have arthritis?”
Out of all the poems I’ve listened to so far, this one is my favorite. Francisco has a way of connecting words to one another that paints this beautiful, but painful image of his mixed feelings towards his ex-partner. As he illustrates in the first part of his poem, he’s angry because he hates his ex-partner, yet is still in love with him despite how much pain he was put through in their relationship. In the second part of his poem, Francisco directs his words towards the new guy his ex-girlfriend is dating. Here, he shares that he suspected she was in love with the new guy while Francisco was still with her. His use of metaphors and other figurative language is remarkable and showcases the myriad of emotions he is experiencing. If you’re going to watch a slam poetry performance, please make this one of them!
I think slam poetry is a really fun and exciting way to approach delivering poetry, because they are written like a performance by telling some sort of story, but also trying to make it engaging. After watching all of these poets share their stories, I feel inspired to write some of my own!
Are there any slam poem performances you’ve seen that have really stuck with you? Tell us about them in the comments below!
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