Slam poetry as meaningful communication


With spoken poetry or ‘slam poetry’ becoming popular on and around campus, it is vital to understand what this genre of poetry is and what it stands for. Slam poetry is a raw, powerful and moving style of oral poetry. Slam poetry competitions were first started in 1986 in a Chicago jazz club by poet and construction worker Marc Smith. It spread to New York where it made somewhat of a home in the Nuyorican Poets Café. It is a platform for countless topics, both personal or political, an d often deals with vital issues that tend to be avoided in daily conversation. This style of poetry, like other poetry, makes use of imagery using metaphors and personification, but also has the added element of vocal speech to paint a picture of words.

Reagan Myers’ poem Depression is Funny Like That describes depression as “a silent film monologue shot underwater”. Her description of this mental illness uses metaphors that make it more relatable to those who do not know what suffering from a mental illness is like.

Crystal Valentine uses her poem Black Privilege to tell a story of racial discrimination. She uses the word ‘privilege’ sarcastically, and expresses the bitterness and pain that a reality like this brings. Her voice breaks with passion when she talks about “the time a teacher asked a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said ‘alive’”. In Hide Your Shea Butter, by Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad says that “Kylie Jenner is turning into a black woman right before our eyes,” as they broach the topic of appropriation of black beauty culture.

UP alumna, Xabiso Vili’s poem, Kingdom of Scars, explores the emotional trauma involved with being in love with a person who has been hurt deeply in the past. The poem is filled with imagery that takes you on a journey so vivid tha t you feel that you are experiencing the pain that the speaker felt when enduring this pain.

Poems dealing with rape and gender inequality are also used to fight the culture that perpetuates this treatment of women. Another Rape Poem is written and performed by Brenna Twohy, who explains that the reason there is ‘another ’ poem about rape, is because rape still needs to be spoken about. Blythe Baird’s Pocket-Sized Feminism explains the struggle that women have with upholding their beliefs in a society that discourages feminism.

The platform slam poetry provides is almost perfect for our times, passionate and entertaining enough to catch our eye, and short enough to accomodate our attention spans. It is easily accessible online, and can be used by people to gain understanding about topics that they may not realise are problematic. It is because of this that slam poetry is becoming an increasingly popular style of expression.


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