Poetry is one of the older forms of artistic self-expression and has been regarded as a magnificent way to communicate human experiences, the beauty of nature and other seemingly inexplicably difficult and fascinating aspects of the world. The way poetry was shaped and developed really belongs on the period of time in which it was practiced, but the need to write it down has been prominent ever since humans developed writing systems. It is simply able to maintain a preservation quality that spoken word poetry lacks.
There is a different angle for looking at this. No matter how wonderfully someone reads a poem out loud, or how deeply connected they feel to its lines when they are reading it on a cold evening by their fireplace, they will never be able to attain the tone and the initial feeling with which the poet wrote it. Whether it’s a downside or not is debatable; poetry is just as much about the reader and their experiences as it is about the poet. However, to establish a direct connection with those who find value in poetry, the concept of spoken word poetry emerged. It is a way for the poet or the reader to communicate the exact emotions and feelings they wish the audience to experience.
When we take spoken word poetry in the broad sense of it, it has existed long before most writing forms. Even before the first writing systems, people found value and aesthetic pleasure in arranging sounds and words in ways that sounded different from the ordinary language, and the ability to do it well was positively regarded and respected across civilizations, especially in ancient Greece. With the discovery of writing, the concept of poetry changed, as written and spoken word poetry became pretty much two distinct forms of art. The type of spoken word poetry we would most often speak about today is performance poetry. It involves written text, but it is created with the sole purpose of being read and performed out loud, actively trying to put its written form into the second plan.
Communicating a very specific feeling to an audience is closely tied to trying to affect people in a certain way as opposed to allowing them to create meaningful experiences in their own right. Thus, spoken word poetry as we know it today is closely tied to social movements, activism, fight against inequality and discrimination. Touching upon topics such as racism, sexual abuse, LGBTQ rights, difficult childhood and so on, the performers create space where the audience can attempt to sympathize with these experiences in a personal way. It’s a powerful tool when trying to achieve unanimous recognition that certain aspects of our lives need to change, and that the society is the one to initiate that change by altering their mindsets.
Slam poetry competitions started being more and more popular as some sort of organized stage was needed for the numerous performers to get feedback on their self expression and gain visibility, so now, many people can see powerful messages and incredible spoken word performances on the internet as well.