So You Haven’t Heard Spoken Word?

If the first idea that pops into your head when I say poetry is Shakespeare, there’s your first problem. Personally, I love Shakespeare. But for many students, reading his work was the first step in isolating poetry as a difficult and boring form of writing. While Shakespeare is one of the most renowned poets, known for his miraculous sonnets and obscure language, he isn’t the foundation for what poetry is and he doesn’t have to be what you think of when you think of poetry.


In the 1960s, slam poetry became a way for individuals to express themselves in a lyrical and revolutionary way. Many issues that took place in this era were talked about through poetry in grass root settings, such as local coffee shops, which gained support and promoted change, all while allowing individuals to express themselves.

As modern day continues on, the revolution of poetry is continuing to progress from paper to speech. Though this started early on, it’s gaining traction through the increase in technology. It’s easy to get on YouTube and search videos, upload poems or even add to a Sound Cloud track. As easy as it is to obtain these means purposefully, it’s almost easier to stumble across spoken word by accident. The idea of spoken word, or slam poetry, was that it was often used to express political and social views, often what modern poets are doing today. When rappers, such as Chance the Rapper, or a friend of mine from high school, use the platform of rap to advocate for certain rights, social movements, or express themselves, they use a method of spoken word. It doesn’t just have to be long, sappy pieces we often think of out of association. Poetry can be one of the most influential and meaningful methods of communication and can be found in music we listen to everyday.


Although spoken word may seem like a foreign concept, it’s gaining momentum and being used in ways you’ve probably heard. As multicultural poets begin to explore their inner-activists, the consumers can feel connected and impacted, whether through YouTube, live slam competitions, or music. Shakespeare is important, but modern poetry is in a new and refreshing way. Spoken word is out there and it’s making a difference.