If you’re into poetry, I’ll bet you’ve heard of slam poetry. It’s a form of spoken word — aka performance poetry. It combines writing, performing, competition, and has the added bonus of audience participation. The name comes from the audience’s power to praise or slam the spoken poem, as well as from the intensity and energy of the speaker.
I’ve never been a natural public speaker, but my school did a spoken word workshop earlier this year and taking part in it reintroduced me to this art. I may not like doing it myself, but I enjoy listening and watching videos of slam poetry competitions. So here are five of my all time favourites!
1. Sakila and Hawa, Detroit Team, “Why are Muslims So…”
I legitimately don’t even know what to say to this piece. The power in every single word is just absolutely incredible. This pair must have practiced their performance dozens of times, because their movements and speech are so in sync. The entire video is so intense, so right there with me, and the frustration that comes through almost makes me cry. Everyone needs to watch this video, even if it’s the only slam poetry video you ever watch.
2. Sarah Kay, “The Type”
This is the first slam poetry video I ever watched and so many lines have stuck with me. I love the calm, assured way she holds herself, and her soft but powerful voice, and the controlled movements that she makes as she speaks. She paints a picture, both with her words and her hands. “You were born to build” — the quiet emphasis on this line just makes my mind stop working completely. I love all of Sarah Kay’s spoken word and would happily watch them for hours in a row.
3. Sophie Priceman, “How Teenage Girls Are Like Poetry”
This poem never gets less powerful. Sophie’s voice is strong and she says loudly so many things some are afraid to even whisper. I love the connecting of poem types to years of being a teenager — it makes it so real and yet so tragic. She starts off quiet at twelve and by the time she’s seventeen, she’s found her voice and is ready to speak out about it.
4. Denice Frohman, “Dear Straight People”
This has a couple swear words in it, just keep that in mind. But okay, WOW, this is so so powerful. I love the formatting of this piece; it’s addressed to groups of people and that makes it stand out even more. It uses humour as a way of captivating the audience — the laughter is very audible. The speaker brings up some very good points and poses great questions.
5. Harry Baker, “Paper People”
Every single time I watch this video, it amazes me. It’s mesmerising to listen to this man say so many words starting with “P.” His energy, too, is really amazing. I love the way he talks about the paper world and connects real life emotions and problems with it. There’s this one line — “people have potential to be powerful” — and it’s stuck with me ever since. He sounds calm but then he really gets going with that alliteration, and man, it’s pretty incredible, even though I can only understand about half of it.