Spoken Word and Poetic Tradition

November 17, 2010

From what I’m seeing of spoken word poetry, it seems to be bringing back the importance of auditory in poetry.  In its foundations (as far as we know) poetry was meant to be spoken or sung so everyone could hear it and understand it without having to read it.  When I sit in a poetry reading, I often find it difficult to follow and I know that if I can see the poem, I’ll see the craft and how it influences meaning much better than if I listen to it.  However, spoken word poetry forms itself on poetic devices that are readily heard through auditory (such as “they’re killing them one by one, two by two, three by three…but my spirit is growing seven by seven).  This might not look like much on paper, but as I listened to it, it was powerful.  The sense of auditory is just as important as the sense of sight and reading comprehension.  Spoken word adapts to and creates an auditory craft.  It also entertains and captures the audience: How Beau Sia incorporates comedy and pop culture references looks a lot like Catullus’ poems that made fun of Varrus or Cicero as he meant for them to be read on the street, so everyone could laugh at the jokes that he makes about them.  Poetry was meant to be for everyone, including those who have no desire to find meaning or anything intellectual in it.  The spoken word is different, but no less powerful, and I think it follows more closely with the original purposes of poetry than a new “unscholarly” poetry.

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