The Spoken Word
Is ‘Rap’ poetry?
Something is going on that’s changing the face of poetry.
At the heart of this change is something called ‘Spoken Word Poetry’ and it’s giving the dry, academic look of poetry a welcome facelift. Rather than being read from old school books, ‘Spoken Word Poetry’ is the live dynamic performance.
Matt Windle, David J. Dreadlock Alien, Spoz, Charlie Jordan, Fatima Al Matar, Kate Tempest, Bohdan Piasecki and Polar Bear
Are just a few artists ushering in this new age of poetic prosperity? On the front line, contributing to its popularity, is rising performance poet and workshop facilitator Kurly, who talks about how he got involved in Spoken Word Poetry and his thoughts on the art form:
“I thought poetry was a bunch of words on a page that didn’t make sense, going on about things that didn’t relate to me and often needing a lot of hard work to figure out. A big no no!
“The poetry I knew was the narrow selection we read in school. Beyond that I’d never read other poems or attempted writing them, yet I’d always been into my Rap music, writing my own lyrics and performing them with my group.
“Then fate introduced me to ‘Spoken Word Poetry’. I’d just started work in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) where kids who’d been excluded from school were sent. In my first week I heard a guy was going to come in to deliver a poetry workshop. Most of the kids in the centre were very unmotivated (hence being excluded from school) and I thought getting these young people to participate in a poetry workshop was impossible.
“Was I wrong?! The guy was none other than performance poet ‘Dreadlock Alien’. As soon as he opened his mouth everyone was captivated by his free style rhymes. His use of imaginative, thought-provoking words kept everybody engrossed whilst the fun rhyming exercises inspired confidence in the kids to create their own poetry.
During the workshop I learned that Rap was a form of poetry: Rhythmic American Poetry. All the time I’d been writing raps I’d been writing poetry! That was when my perception of poetry totally changed from being a no, to becoming a BIG yes!
“I thought to myself ‘If I could make a living doing what Dreadlock Alien does, I’d be blessed’. Then he invited me to shadow him and that’s how I learned the workshop format. Now I travel the U.K. delivering workshops in schools, PRUs and Youth Organisations. I embraced the poetry world and took part in ‘Poetry Slam’ competitions, festivals and public events. Then I was shortlisted for the post of Birmingham Poet Laureate 2010/2011.
I feel I’ve come a long way in a very short time but stepping in the direction of poetry doesn’t mean that I’ve walked away from my Rap Music, just the opposite. It’s helped me become a better writer and performer. All the extra practice I’ve put into poetry can’t help but rub off on my music.
“Like Rap, Spoken Word Poetry lives off the page, not on it. It’s very much about performance; you see it, hear it, feel it.
You don’t need to be a scholar to understand it. Yet the Spoken word has led me to appreciate the written word. Tupac Shakur has a book of poetry published – it’s called ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete’. Check it out. He’s using the poetic art form called Rap to express himself.
“I enjoy passing my skills onto others. It’s not just about doing poetry for the sake of it, there’s much more. It helps develop young people’s literacy, boosts self-esteem, enables them to share thoughts and feelings and I often get emails after a workshop saying that the kids are still writing poetry.
Discovering new skills and having self-confidence built up to share thoughts and feelings in a fun way leaves a lasting impression, particularly on young people. Young men in particular tend to open up readily and discuss issues they’re facing.
It’s something they can relate to as they listen to music and want to be rappers or emcees themselves.
“The Spoken Word poetry scene is very nurturing, people are very supportive and there’s always opportunities for newcomers. Having a mentor like Dreadlock Alien was a big advantage in my development.
But to do well you have to have an open mind, willingness to learn… and practice, practice, practice. The scene shows no signs of going away and its appeal is very much on the rise. It can make you laugh or cry, but it’s always entertaining. It’s one the most supportive, diverse, chilled out and friendly scenes that I’ve had the pleasure of stepping into and I’d urge anybody to check it out.
Maybe Google ‘Hit the Ode’ or ‘Rhymes’ before you miss out.”
by Alan (Kurly) McGeachie
This entry was posted in Stephen Lewis and tagged art form, bohdan, david j, dynamic performance, facelift, free style, narrow selection, old school books, performance poet, piasecki, poetry workshop, polar bear, pru, pupil referral unit, rap music, rap poetry, spoken word poetry, spoz, windle, workshop facilitator. Bookmark the permalink.