Slam Poetry

When thinking about what got me into poetry, I had said it was because my parents introduced literature at a really early age, which is completely true; however, when thinking again about what actually got me into poetry, it was poetry in response to a tragedy that got me writing, specifically, slam poetry. Whether it was a rape survivor’s story, or survivors of a shooting, or a political statement, the readings piqued my interest. What took me by surprise was the emotion from the poets when they read their poetry. It was a performance, not just a recitation.

In class, when Lidabel mentioned Button Poetry, I was immediately brought back to my 15-year-old self staying up late on youtube, under the covers, headphones turned all the way up to “Somewhere in America” by Los Angeles Team on Youth Speaks. After watching some of their videos, I found Button Poetry, and a bunch of other channels with young poets writing and reciting poetry I could relate to. I would play the videos over and over, eventually being able to mimic the exact way the words were spoken by the poet. Like a song, I recited them in my head, sometimes writing them in my science notebook when I got bored in class (something I still do). I was attracted to the rhythm of their speech and the progression of their poem, revealing one thing after the next.

It’s really interesting to think back on it now. Those videos inspired me so much that instead of copying their poetry over and over, I started writing my own poetry in the spines of all my notebooks. My parents get upset with me now because I refuse to get rid of any book or notepad from high school, but every single one obtains pages upon pages of poems and scribbles of ideas I had that day. I have now developed an appreciation for poetry that doesn’t necessarily have to be read out loud; however, I think it will always have a special place in my heart, as cheesy as it is. Slam poetry got me writing on my own. It was a creative outlet for me at first, but now it’s something that I want to improve every single day.

2 Replies to “Slam Poetry”

  1. I rewatch “Somewhere in America” every couple of months because it never fails to hit me in the gut. I think as a class we should put on a poetry slam on campus or maybe we should just all get together and binge watch Button Poetry and Brave New Voices. Slam poetry is so powerful, and it seems to have inspired a lot of us in class. I recommend you watch Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make.” It’s a very teacher poem, but I love it so much. I think it would be really cool to write a poem in this style that is different. Maybe “What Poets Make” or “What English Majors Make.” Anyway, here’s the link to the video!

  2. Great post, Lyndsay, and thanks for the additional recommendations, Hannah.

    It’s worth remembering that poetry’s roots lie in the oral/aural, that the expectation of poetry has always been that it exists in relationship to being spoken. That’s not to downplay what can be achieved on the page, or the fact that the poem has developed a visual capacity that’s harnessed by things like printing presses, photocopiers, typewriters, and publishing software. Listening to Benjamin Bagby read Beowulf, accompanied by the harp, isn’t so far from Button Poetry, even as it’s so totally different.

    At times there’s a binary between spoken and page poetry, but they share more than separates them and the division stops us from thinking about both content (sociopolitical commentary or personal empowerment, including other contents) that they share, as well as techniques (of rhythm, music, and imagery too). So I’m glad you’ve found your way back to your past as your working on your present poetry, Lyndsay!

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