I'm Obsessed with Poetry Jams
I have an intense love of poetry jams. Spoken word poetry is all about mixing theater with the art of wordplay and those are things I adore. I have never forgotten the first time I saw spoken word poetry. I was fourteen and watching SNL. Usually after that, I tolerated Midnight at the Apollo, because I knew that once that was over, I was gonna get to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was my favorite thing ever. But this night, between the R&B songs and comedians on Midnight at the Apollo, there was a young, white guy. I don't remember his name but I remember him; white t-shirt, scrawny body, carrying nothing to the stage but a piece of paper. And he began to speak and what came out was a bombastic, brilliant, funny poem about himself and the world around him. The audience (mostly black folks who raised some serious eyebrows at him when he took he stage) stood up and cheered and hollered and let him know that he was a bad-ass writer and performer.
I became obsessed. I pulled back my frizzy hair and sat down to write my first spoken word poem. It was about being biracial and it was called, "The Other" because when I took tests at school, I always had to check the other box, for my race and it always bothered me, being not enough of any one thing. I wrote it. I was so proud of it and it was terrible. If I have learned one thing over the years, it's that I'm a prose girl all the way. Pentameter scatters before me. Rhythm and cadence disappear. But back then, I performed them with zeal. I was a biracial Eminem, all broad hand gestures and pseudo-urban affectation. My town didn't even have paved roads but I wrote like I was Tupac in the ghetto.
I gave up poetry when I discovered how much better I was at prose, but my love of theatrical poetry continues. Thanks to YouTube, I spend a lot of time having communion with writers. People like Taylor Mali Sarah Kaye make my heart happy and poetry jams fill me with child-like joy.Watching spoken word is like going to church. My sad little heathen heart loves having someone standing at the pulpit, up on the stage, making broad hand gestures and preaching about love and sexuality and faith and technology. I have always connected to my fellow human through words and in this way, it becomes a kind of communion, a supping of the wine. They give the body and the blood and I consume in order to share their humanity.
I want to share with you this little gem that I found on YouTube. This young man is Marshall Davis Jones. His piece of brilliant but it's a little too theatrical. I think if he toned it down a bit at the end, it would shine even more. But here it is, beautifully imperfect and so full of wordplay and pathos and... truthiness that I needed to share it with you.
I am aware of the irony of posting this on my blog, but... I'm doing it anyway.
Get outside sometime. Enjoy the sunshine, the moon shine (or the moonshine), the hustle and bustle of your fellow people and remember that touch is best experienced with someone or something that can touch you back.
When the outside gets to be blinding and all the touching gets to be too much, check out some more fantastic spoken word poetry.
This is one of my all time favorites. Note to Self by Ebony Stewart. When I love the way love, I love on purpose.