by KYLEE BAGLEY
T.S. Eliot, Hemingway, and Bukowski might be rolling in their graves at the path poetry has taken in the past 60 plus years, but here’s why these linguistically gifted men are so very wrong. Slam poetry is taking over major cities across the globe and pushing the boundaries of spoken word. Most people’s knowledge of poetry only extends to that which is taught in high school English classes. Artistically written, highly coveted by scholars, and unbearably dull to a majority of millennials. From the Brave New Voices competition to slam nights at your local coffee house, it is clear to see this art form is not going anywhere.
How can one divulge in poetry in such a way that will make them feel as if their “hearts are filled with thousands of fireflies” (Jasmine Mans, “Dear Ex-Lover”) and not unbearably overwhelmed? Poetry slams are the only way to voluntarily get your heart stomped on and resurrected. Don’t worry; you can now download an app that finds slams close to you.
With just a Google search you have millions of slam videos (recordings of performance poetry) at your fingertips. While written poetry is up to the reader’s interpretation, slam poetry is governed by the way the writer performs it for a group of people. Usually, slam performances are done in competition form. Either way, poets come prepared to hear words that will move them and the knowledge of possibly performing a poem that needs to be so sick they become the slam champion.
Slam poetry takes on a different form than written word. While written poetry is usually abstract and uses a multitude of metaphors, slam poetry needs to feel like a conversation with your soul mate in a dimly lit coffee shop. Or bar. Your choice. A live performance of a slam poem only allows the opportunity to be heard once. Many slam poets will write poems much like writing a rap, giving it its own flow to spark the viewers listening, similar to the way one will listen intently to the lyrics on a Kendrick Lamar song.
Poetry’s survival is evident, and you can watch it performed at the Brave New Voices (BNV) competition. This competition was created by Youth Speaks Inc. in 1998. They have had the Brave New Voices competition annually since, pitting teams of poets from cities across the country against each other. This competition was made for performers ages 13-19 to show that the youth of our nation have voices and they need to be heard. The 2015 BNV competition was won by the Philadelphia Youth Poetry movement, which goes to show that poetry is alive and well pretty close to home.
Slam poetry was invented to grab your attention. It bites, hard. It does not apologize. It becomes a truth rooted in your soul. In contrast to poetry written in Shakespearean time, slam poems cover modern day topics that draw people’s most intense beings out of themselves such as police corruption, love/lust, and women’s rights. It gives people a platform to take a stand for or against. Poets raise their voices, putting volumes of raw emotions into their performance just trying to connect with at least one person in the crowd. For a lot of writers, readers, and listeners alike, slam poetry is a home and the foundation is solid.