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4 Spoken Word Poems That Will Hit You in The Feels

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winthrop chapter.

Spoken word is an art form that takes poetry to the stage instead of the page. Because spoken word is meant to be performed to an audience, it usually centers around relevant issues that affect a vast number of people, but the poet often makes his or her points through a style of intimate personal storytelling.

A lot of spoken word, including the poems featured here, deals with pretty heavy topics. However, I find listening to these poems cathartic and encouraging, despite the potentially weighty subject matter. 

The poets transform their experiences into art as a means of healing, and as a result, they are able to let others in similar situations know that they are not alone.


The Future – Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn is well known for his viral poem “OCD,” an emotionally charged confessional piece about living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One of his slightly less famous poems (though it still has over a million views on YouTube) is “The Future,” which focuses more on Neil’s experience with Bipolar Disorder.

Neil uses poetry as an outlet – both as a way of coping with own mental illnesses and proving to his audiences that there is always hope. His raw honesty and sense of humor in the face of adversity leaves me with chills and a full heart every time I hear this poem. 


Backpedal – Olivia Gatwood

This past fall, I had the incredible opportunity to watch Olivia Gatwood perform live at my school, Winthrop University. Her poetry is all about breaking down the barriers surrounding “taboo” topics – she speaks candidly about periods, sexual assault, the implications behind the term “resting b!tch face,” and more.

She has already published a book of poetry entitled New American Best Friend and is working on a second collection now. “Backpedal” will leave you emotional for sure, but Olivia’s artful conveyance of experiences that most people would struggle to put into words make any tears worth it. 


I Am Twenty-Two – Tonya Ingram

This powerful piece by a young, wise, brilliant poet, Tonya Ingram, explores the intersection of identity and illness as she copes with her diagnosis of Lupus. “I Am Twenty-Two” is thought provoking as well as artistic. In case you still need convincing to watch Tonya’s video (and check out her other poems), here are some of my favorite lines: 

“I am where the wild things are. I am metaphors that boost my street-cred because all I want in life is to rap under the alias “Tonyasaurus-Rex.” I am a bullet in an open flood, swimming in the junk-yard of the most sacred drowning. I am a girl still learning God.”


21 – Patrick Roche

This “countdown” style poem by Patrick Roche is a beautiful testament to his own strength, as well as a heartbreaking perspective on what alcoholism does to both individuals and families. Patrick also speaks to the pain of having to hide his sexuality as a teenager and young adult. “21” has racked in 6.1 million views on YouTube and is yet another example of the power of confessional spoken word poetry.


These poems are four of my personal favorites, but you can find thousands of other professionally produced spoken word performance videos on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel if you feel like exploring the genre some more.

Be sure to show your favorite poets some love in the YouTube comments, and don’t forget to check out their books and tour schedules as well!   

Katya Engalichev is a New Hampshire native currently studying at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Although she intends to pursue a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, writing has always been one of her greatest passions and she hopes to expand her repertoire through Her Campus. In addition to writing and promoting mental health awareness, Katya enjoys creating art, watching The Office, playing soccer, listening to Lana Del Rey, and riding her horse, Billy.
Winthrop University is a small, liberal arts college in Rock Hill, SC.