As T. Miller’s poem suggests, spoken word often, though certainly not always, utilizes complex and interesting rhymes. In this respect, it bears much in common with hip hop—so much so that very often audiences, drawing upon stereotypes of hip hop, often perceive spoken word to be narrower than it actually is. In other words, often people think of spoken word as primarily consisting of beats and rhyme which is not necessarily the case.
Yet, spoken word can use rhythm in some surprising ways.
Stage vs. Page
Blair’s use of precise gestures and onomatopoeia begin to suggest the crucial ways in which spoken word poetry hinges on live performance.
As such, spoken word poems don’t necessarily translate well to the page, just as poetry written specifically to be read from the page doesn’t necessarily translate to performance poetry. This isn’t to say that spoken word poets aren’t concerned about how their poems look and read from the page, but to suggest that this isn’t necessarily a foremost concern.
The Performance of Spoken Word
As a verbal aesthetic intended for live audiences, spoken word poetry demonstrates a broader range of characteristics than I can discuss here.
While the poetry itself is complex, spoken word is a simple and raw form of performance as the poet emotes his or her original writings. Thus, it’s unique from other forms of stage theatre.
Commonly performed solo and without music or props, the performer is left with only his or her body, voice, and breath to convey the meanings of a poem.
Spoken word, then, is both a verbal aesthetic as well as a specific kind of performance art. And it’s only when these characteristics combine that one can make spoken word.
Writing Spoken Word
So, how do you write a successful spoken word poem? In many ways, you don’t write spoken word as much as you hear spoken word.
All poets have an inner voice that guides them in writing their poetry. Spoken word poets must be especially attune to this voice and attempt to make it interesting and compelling when spoken aloud.
If you want to write spoken word poetry, then the best place to begin is by listening to your own voice and to the voices of others.
In the simplest sense, spoken word is your own inner voice spoken aloud.
So, try to listen for natural rhythms and tones as well as those more stylized. And write from that place of deep listening.
What are your observations about spoken word poetry as an art form?