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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Clowns (Spoken Word) – Song By: Ronnie and Heather Whitley Gibson

He’s no Dr. Doolittle
part Gene Simmons
a goofy suit
big red shoes
a drunken buffoon
not Krusty the cartoon
a juggling freeloader
mustard stained puppet
a taffy tongue
rubber bible belt
he over hauls his overalls
lipstick kisses
pulling rubber balloons from his pants
bringing laughter to the romper room
an elixir fixer up
brown bomb maker
a salty fish
one salty tear

He’s no Dr. Doolittle
his chalk face
that grinning smile
from fears to tears
smiles to frowns
Simon says guitar
from town to town
he’s not the scary fairy
the pumpkin stealer
with the mustard smile
that passes out
to pass out
some of his brown pamphlets
roaring surface
surfaces needed
circuses needed
a clown get-a-way
a fallen fellow
cat in the hat
arriving at the Who-ville

He’s a clown
not a pumpkin stealer
with a mustard smile
even though rumors about his batman underwear
cover his large mouth
crunching bones
twirled ice cream cones
children’s bones
who didn’t giggle

not even a tickle of fear of death
his band aid clown
frown upside down
rehab a finish
fake clown school
rooted into hold his own
ridicule
he’s dusty and rusty
like a freaky and greeky
summer salted
the clown
the man with the bad habit
laughing at you
like a big red shoe

Take A Listen To “Clowns” (Spoken Word)

“Butterfly Stitch (Spoken Word)” – Poem By: Heather Whitley Gibson

Fire has no reason, it’s a morning loop
like a fine old hand held
needed touch, gently holding
a butterfly stitch
can’t help to be rich

space removed, a window cellar, broken room
a remnants and regrets
cherished
the brown bottle, tipped over, tears staining
cloth belts, a rolling vein, tobacco smelling shirts
held together
by my grandmother’s
butterfly stitch

her loving touch
custom made rain coats, spring dresses
hand made by worn factory hands
made in an hour
any color
just for the afternoon
she sewed, my sister & I watched, the needle crawling
a fast silver fish

boxed and preserved, those patterns
laid over by plastic, like a couch
rolled and tied, our sleeping body bags
meant to be saved for a rainy day

my grandfather drinking from his grandfather cup
over spilled coffee grains, scattered like ball-bearings
we eyed our glass marbles
as the game began
Boston Red Sox vs. N.Y. Yankees
that old T.V. furniture piece covered
with dollies, Lorna Doones, and pouched tobacco

our grandfather ate powdered scones
still telling horny polish jokes
taking after his father, the Italian stallion
tending to their Sicilian home
open bags of Cheetos, three girls ate
orange fingers

overtime sudden death forfeit
cigarette still lit, an arm chair ashtray
new white Cadillac in the driveway
consciously, picked up fork
the road, remarks behind, ended
in that dark garage

shaking, messing around, shaking
foraging boxes, bags of Hershey kisses and old canvasses
pulling our hair, remaking a face
hearing our grandmother singing
wooden old dart board delivers
across the blue sky-top of the page
a straight line to Christmas, a blue crayon pathway
a broken red glass ball to be hung
a kept fake tree

en-caused, Jasper Johns-poster flag
all American
remembered again and again
hung on the wall, memories, played over
a plastic bow and arrow
aimed for that single red dot
like Christ, over doorways
catholic American dream

my grandmother sat, holding her cross
with my hand, explaining god, to her best
patting her arm hair down
when her goose bumps raised
asking if we wanted another
cook-kee
telling me about periods on Sundays

crosses everywhere
doorways
they were revolutionary’s
in every way, us
Polish-Italian-Chickasaw-Swedish-Blackfoot
mix-down

my mother sewed herself a P.H.D.
my father, an atheist doctor
humanist, writer of plays and pain
my uncle, the gourmet cook, London Aids
my aunt, cookie maker, heads the mental illness foundation
my cousin’s, two writers, a painter, a pianist, a sculptor
my sister the socialist social worker
hand me downs

all of us volunteers of my grandmother’s butterfly stitch
a morning loop, needing touch, gently held pens
all of us write something down
our memories can’t help
but to be rich

Take A Listen To “Butterfly Stitch”