Translucent Poetics: Writing Spoken Word – Reblogged From Dversepoets.com

Re-Blogged From DVERSEPEOETS.COM

Posted by claudia in Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft

There are no hard-and-fast rules for writing spoken word poetry. Like poetry in general, spoken word poetry can’t be boxed-in. Still, how to write spoken word is a concern for poets interested in reading or performing their poetry for live audiences. So, I’d like to highlight a few observations about spoken word poetry as an aesthetic style, examine a specific example, and then offer an exercise for writing a successful spoken word poem.
Spoken word is intended for a listening audience. Thus, it must somehow manage to speak itself in a way that makes its various images and metaphors easily apparent, or accessible, to any listener and not necessarily to someone “schooled” in poetry or even spoken word. Sure, a lot of spoken word poems need to be heard several times to appreciate all the nuances of meanings. But the success of a spoken word poem depends upon being able to convey its meanings in a single performance.
Spoken word is intended for a listening audience. Thus, it must somehow manage to speak itself in a way that makes its various images and metaphors easily apparent, or accessible, to any listener and not necessarily to someone “schooled” in poetry or even spoken word. Sure, a lot of spoken word poems need to be heard several times to appreciate all the nuances of meanings. But the success of a spoken word poem depends upon being able to convey its meanings in a single performance.
As a result, translucency, or poetic transparency is a key element of spoken word poetry. So, how does a spoken word poem achieve translucency? Well, it does so not much differently than any poem. For instance, the use of narrative, repetition, and direct address to the audience is common to spoken word poetry. Also, spoken word poetry often utilizes language one hears spoken in common parlance and images that manage to be familiar and yet not clichéd. But a popular element of spoken word poetry that I want to focus on is its use of first-person point of view.

Check out Minton Sparks poem “Fill Her Up.”

Watching and listening to Sparks’ performance, you can see why the poem lends itself so well to being spoken to a live audience. Without sacrificing poetic complexity, Sparks’ manages to use rather simple descriptions for a memorable portrait of a woman who works as a gas station attendant.
But the entire piece is framed as Sparks’ personal story. Yes, this is the daughter’s portrait of the mother, but it is also Sparks’ portrait of herself. And because it’s written in first-person, we, as the audience, have a tangible narrator with which to identify in the poem and which is then mirrored by Sparks’ stage presence.

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One comment on “Translucent Poetics: Writing Spoken Word – Reblogged From Dversepoets.com

  1. granbee says:

    Speaking in the first person when reading/presenting oral poetry DOES make it pack more of a punch and draw the audience in!

    Like

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