Spoken word and slam poetry: you might not know much about it now, but what if I told you that thanks to video sharing sites like YouTube, these are mediums of self expression that are cultivating progressive voices.
Groups like Button Poetry, Speak Easy NYC and Project V.O.I.C.E., to name just a few, are enabling young and old to lift their voices and create a chorus of strong, often progressive, voices who are making powerful statements on racial prejudice, feminism, gay rights, body image, on love, on empowering our youth and so much more.
Here is just a small list of powerful spoken verse performances from the last few years. This is by no means a definitive list of poetry performances: there’s so much more to explore and so many more voices to hear, but these — in no particular order — are ones that spoke to me personally with messages I sincerely felt needed sharing. Please be advised there is strong language in the following videos, in every sense of the word.
On Sexual Orientation
1. Denise Frohman – “Dear Straight People”
This video is poised to go viral, and for good reason. It tells in a licorice whip of a voice the complex relationship lesbians and bisexual women have with straight men and straight women. Articulating the experience of many, this poem is worth engaging with even if you don’t agree with everything it contains:
2. Janani – “Trans/National”
What it means to be a man of color is given new meaning here:
On Women’s Rights
3. Lauren Zuniga – “Personhood”
Zuniga, in a blowtorch of a voice, argues that legislating personhood is a very good idea. Here’s why:
4. Kait Rokowski – “How to Cure a Feminist”
A sheer switchblade of a poem that detonates down the spine with successive hits, Kait Rokowski manages to touch on a very particular strain of anti-feminist behavior and articulate it with a disarming candor:
5. Sarah Kay – “The Type”
Mention spoken verse poetry and sooner or later you are likely to hear the name Sarah Kay, and for good reason. While all of her poems are wonderful, this particular piece has a message for young girls that cuts through empowering slogans and delivers a call to self-worth and self-value that deserves to be heard:
On Body Acceptance
6. Rachel Wiley – “10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy”
There are some poems that explode and some poems that call you in as they whisper. This beautiful piece does both and then soars as it explores the effects of fat shaming, of beauty and what love really means:
Image credit: Thinkstock.
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