How much do you like poetry? I’m a so-so reader, meaning no respect to the many people I know who write poetry. But recently I become aware of a new word–“spoken word” which is poetry being recited aloud.
A triple dozen years ago when I was in junior high level, I recited a poem in the region’s consolidated school communications contest. It was something about a crooked man, etc. Anyway I stood straight and tall in front of a microphone (for the first time) and recited my poem. My tone changed here and there as I spoke, and the whole presentation was called a “dramatic reading.” I didn’t win but I remember the experience of hearing other contestants really becoming dramatic.
Today, many people are reciting their poetry in the spoken word’s dramatic style, not in the low “Robert Frost” fashion of old. They are dramatic, spontaneous and use many changes to their tone of voice. Recently Ken Brown, a Baltimore poet, talked to the Baltimore Chapter of Maryland Writers. He read several of his poems in the spoken word style. “It’s not hip hop or rap” he explained, “There’s really no definition of spoken word, its the reading of it that makes the quantitative deference..”
When delivered or recited as Mr. Brown did, it became a rhythmic presentation, a recital of words unaccompanied by music as hip hop is. You might say that delivery is the most up front difference. A good deal of body movement is also added and the speaker may move around the stage using arm movements, etc. It really becomes a “dramatic reading” more than the one I delivered. Poet Brown also explained that many spoken word poets write of wars and civil unrest, which are good themes for dramatic verbiage.
Just after meeting Ken Brown I learned it was National Poetry Month and read that Thomas C.Foster had published the book “How to Read Poetry Like a Professor” Harper perennial ISBN 9780062113788. A review of his book quotes him as saying he is a big advocate of reading poetry aloud and encourages us to set aside any self conscious apprehensions we may have about doing so.” In speaking it and hearing it we learn to feel poetry,”he writes/ He also writes that poems are “occasions to explore the divinity of experience and the miracle of imagination.”
According to Brown, poets begin writing as poets and then they begin changing as many large umbrella become available to them. Change is good, they say.