Understanding Spoken Word Poetry


Have you ever seen art that expresses so much emotion? A form of art that bares the soul completely vulnerable, leaving the performer emotionally naked in front of a crowd? Have you ever witnessed a form of art that is so raw, you can’t imagine what it must be like for someone to expose themselves in such a way? Have you ever witnessed a form of art as such that is done only with words?

Spoken word poetry is a form of art that is designed specifically for the performance rather than being exclusive to just a page. Spoken word poetry, however, is not just about the poetry slam and competitions. It’s about the poet, it’s about the poem itself, it’s about the words chosen and the meanings behind every line. What makes spoken word so different from written poetry is that it allows the audience to witness every emotion that has gone behind every word, every line. It opens the poet, the writer, the performer and creates a vulnerability surrounding them that wouldn’t normally be present with written poetry being read.

There’s such a rawness to watching someone perform spoken word or being the performer of spoken word. I think that’s why I do it.

There is so much emotion that goes into performing this form of poetry that it is nearly impossible to not feel anything when in the midst of it. Spoken word is generally written on a topic that is near and dear to the poet’s heart, or on a topic that is controversial. This form of art is designed to provoke the listener, just as much as it provokes the writer. It creates a question for the audience, it provokes thoughts and emotions. It requires a reaction, it requires acknowledgment. I always thought that poetry was supposed to make people uncomfortable and if it doesn’t, it’s not doing its job. Here are a few videos of the some really thought- and emotion-provoking poems:

Neil Hilborn – OCD
Crystal Valentine – Black Privilege
#BNV14 Finals – Somewhere in America
Sabrina Benamin – Explaining My Depression to My Mother


Rebecca Guanabara, a New York City-born, Connecticut-raised Brazilian, is in her junior year at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. Rebecca majors in English with the desire to become an English educator and published author, despite the fact that her first learned and spoken language was Portuguese. Rebecca is an avid literature lover and athlete. She enjoys venturing in adrenaline-packed sports such as snowboarding and long-boarding while also diving deep into a world of literary art with a zeal for spoken word poetry writing and performance.

One thought on “Understanding Spoken Word Poetry

  • May 10, 2016 at 12:34 am

    HUGE fan of spoken word/slam poetry and you listed some of my favorites at the bottom of the article. I remember seeing a preview of the poem you were performing for your comm final in class and completely loving what I saw. Let us know if you have any of your work posted and if so where, I’d love to watch it!


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