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Thursday Wordplay with Ray: Spoken Word Poetry!


Spoken Word Poetry is defined by poetryfoundation.org as, "a broad designation for poetry intended for performance. Though some spoken word poetry may also be published on the page, the genre has its roots in oral traditions and performance. Spoken word can encompass or contain elements of rap, hip-hop, storytelling, theater, and jazz, rock, blues, and folk music. Characterized by rhyme, repetition, improvisation, and word play, spoken word poems frequently refer to issues of social justice, politics, race, and community. Related to slam poetry, spoken word may draw on music, sound, dance, or other kinds of performance to connect with audiences."

Spoken Word Poetry is near and dear to my heart. See, in college, I took two poetry offerings and came away with a massive respect for those brave enough to write and recite their work. But a select location really made those classes and those works stick.

The Greek amphitheater at LSU was a battleground for syllabi and rhyme and style to mesh and coalesce into a tremorous cadence that, at times, would shake the heart in your chest, or could have you laughing out your socks. I remember performing my own Ars Poetica pieces there, and I never considered myself a public speaker until that very day. I loved it. It was everything language and writing was supposed to be! We write to read and we read to tell, to heal, to speak, to ruminate. All these internal things were occurring after every clever turn of phrase or double entendre and it was magical! I still write poetry in varying forms today, but after the recent events in America, my home, my mind has been drawn to the horrible, the terrible: the loss of life. Young life. Old life. Schools. Grocery stores. Evening jogs. Church gatherings. These were on my mind while I was writing and reciting back my words. I was suddenly not on that amphitheater stage, but instead a stage for myself to work through my observations about these events.

That is why spoken word poetry is important. There is an edge to the tenor in someone's voice, to their pauses and their intonations. I encourage you all to look up videos of poetry slams and see the passion people perform with. For now, however, I'll leave you with my most recent writing, in the form of a prose poem meant to be said aloud, to be screamed from the rooftops.



"Vests that block metal seem more commonplace than pencils and papers than books and erasers than desks and doorstoppers and that’s by design by the time you realize the desk is flipped you're flipping shit press it against the door that has the window slit and like a snake the barrel slides through adrenaline is high and you can't shake the shake like it’s a small earthquake and you’re California break break breaking off the door breaks off and flies open and the teacher is screaming but it’s all just a drill because there's no damn reason kids should be shot getting public education put the money into healthcare if you actually care and take kids to therapy for problems because they're not aware they even have them and what does a vest that blocks metal do if something finds your head and it’s not knowledge its metal and tipped like a spear congratulations you get to put plaques up in the gym or make a memorial garden because your hearts are too hardened Christ walked on water not for you to walk over the blood of your brothers your sisters your educators no mothers need to hear that their child was shot by police or by a neighbor the taste is the same flavor its bitter its rank doesn’t matter your societal rank kids need to go to school with book-bags and highlighters not be praying at vigils and raising lighters"



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