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5 Spoken Word Poems You Need to Hear

One crisp winter afternoon several years back, I found myself yearning for an adventure. Too lazy to trek through the snow, I decided that I would have to create an “adventure” for myself and to YouTube I went! About half a dozen searches deep, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a hyper-energized Shakespearean-type soliloquy. Composed of a string of carefully-crafted words and delivered in just the right tone, I was nothing less than inspired. “Spoken word,” as I had come to learn, would allow me to discover the beauty of language all over again. Depending on our own individual means of expression and convention, we may find ourselves attracted to one particular type of poet or topic over another. I encourage you to explore these preferences and find your niche! In the meantime, I would like to share some of my favorite spoken word poems with you:

  1. 1. Sarah Kay – “The Type”

    A poetry writer and educator, Sarah Kay is perhaps my favorite spoken word poet. Passion is so often equated with loudness. Her delivery is gentle yet powerful, demonstrating that we don’t need to roar to make noise. To me, “The Type” is an empowering ballad about self-definition. Historically, when compared to the complex and dynamic depictions of their male counterparts, females are often illustrated as linear and static. Coined as the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in contemporary media, this stock character exists solely for the purpose of helping the male protagonist fulfill his life’s purpose without pursuing her own interests. Womanhood, however, cannot be told from a lens other than our own. We are not made of poetry. We are not metaphors for perfection. We are not blameless angelic figures or the answers to someone else’s questions. To embody these notions is to strip women of their humanity. We are beautifully flawed individuals, here to find our own answers. You, and no one other than you, can create your narrative.

  2. 2. Sophia Priceman – “How Teenage Girls Are Like Poetry”

    For young girls, the loss of innocence comes far too early. This poem captures the experience I could never find the right words to express. It explores the hypersexualization of the female body amidst her ascent into womanhood. “How Teenage Girls Are Like Poetry” brings the power back into our own hands in an inspiring and empowering way.

  3. 3. Olivia Gatwood – “Alternate Universe in Which I Am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me”

    Olivia Gatwood is both a writer and activist on topics spanning gendered violence, sexuality and true crime. Witty and outspoken, I truly admire her writing and all that she stands for. “Alternate Universe in Which I Am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me” has helped me perceive rejection in a new light, both romantically and otherwise. Sometimes, our pain and pride may surface in immaturity. This poem has helped me realize that our reaction to circumstances is the root of our power. Have you ever purposely ignored the person you crave attention from the most? Needless, protest or purposeful ignoring only increases the damage done to our hearts. There is strength in recognizing our limits and moving forward with character.

  4. 4. Phil Kaye – “Repetition”

    Phil Kaye’s personable and comedic style immediately draws you in. “Repetition” discusses the fragility of our words. “You watch the sun set too often it just becomes 6 p.m., you make the same mistake over and over you’ll stop calling it a mistake — if you just wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up one day you’ll forget why.” To fill our interactions with meaningless banter is to become wasteful with our words. If used mindfully, however, language can become the sword of the heart.

  5. 5. Maia Mayor – “Perfect”

    Maia Mayor is a writer and performer whose poems discuss her battle with depression and her search for identity. Her poems are vivid, raw and emotional. The first time I listened to “Perfect”, I got shivers down my spine. Told from the perspective of her mother, the poem reflects upon feelings of inadequacy that stem from an invalidating environment, and the ache that emerges from not being accepted by those who claim to love us. Our need to belong parallels the pressure for perfection. This only serves to poison the heart.

As odd as it may seem, I love poetry for its mystery. We become detectives, in search of the latent meaning beneath each metaphor and simile. Our clues are similar; that is, we each hear the same beautifully-crafted elegies and allegories. However, our discoveries depend on our subjective interpretations.