Sunday, March 27, 2011

Words and Progress

I stood in front of my class and stared at my note card nervous to begin the next three lines of self-created conversation. It was a poem. Nothing fancy, just something simple to get the audience wrapped up in my intent. Yes it was just an assignment, but it was about something that I hold dear.

Poetry slams, slam poetry, and spoken word poetry. These terms may mean nothing to you, but know that they should. Poetry isn’t just your eighth grade haiku anymore, a lot has changed. The best way for me to explain this movement in poetry is just to supply you with names and links, but I can tell you why I believe that spoken word is so amazingly relevant.

Poets from around the US are crafting truth, and I don’t know about you but I am pretty sure this world could use some more of that. Awareness is the byproduct of these poems being performed in front of audiences. Racism, sexism, homophobia, gender roles, and feminism are just a few of the multitude of topics that are touched on by poets.

Let me start out with one of my favorites, Andrea Gibson. Her poem “I Do” speaks to the importance of marriage equality, “Ashes” is a tear jerking response to the report of a hate crime in which a soldier was set on fire and burned to death because he was queer, “Swing Set” breathes humor into the painful experiences of those that don’t “look the part” of their gender in society’s eyes, and “Andrew” expresses just how confining the idea of gender is. And her work doesn’t stop there, her other poems include topics such as the price of war on soldiers, rape, and the nightmares that have been birthed from the American dream.

Alix Olson gives praise to the feminist women that came before her in “Women Before Me” and shines light on what it means to have a vagina in “Gender Game.” Big Poppa E, a fellow Austinite, pokes fun at society’s idea of masculinity in “The Wussy Boy Manifesto” and dedicates “Propers” to those that fall victim to the views of society. Young poets featured on HBO’s Brave New Voices speak about the challenges that face trans youth in their poem “Hir.” Sarah Kay, the founder of project V.O.I.C.E, sheds light on the untapped power of the youth in “Not Just Another Math Problem.”

Along with these poets there are many more spitting their truths everyday including the wonderful Staceyann Chin, Saul Williams, Anis Mojgani, Buddy Wakefield, Rudy Francisco, Theresa Davis, SuperB, and Lacey Roop. These poets are shining a spotlight on topics that most wish would stay hidden in the shadows due to the discomfort they can evoke. These poems can be used as tools to get the hard conversations started; and conversation, as we all know, is a stepping-stone towards progress.

“I Do”-


“Swing Set”-


“Women Before Me”-

“Gender Game”-

“The Wussy Boy Manifesto”-



“Not Just Another Math Problem”-

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