It wasn’t that I didn’t know that slam poetry existed, but I had no idea of how awesome it was until I searched the term on YouTube and came up with fabulous video after fabulous video. Basically, slam, spoken word or performance poetry as it is various known, is a dramatic monologue by the poet. Performance poetry can be funny or sad, it can be like storytelling or like rap, it can include song or music, and it can be personal or general.
I’ve pulled out a few of my favorites to share with you.
To start us off, here’s Peter Sellars kickin’ it old school with his spoken rendition of a “Hard Day’s Night”.
If you’re wondering why’s he dressed in Tudor costume, Sellars is doing a spot-on impersonation of Laurence Olivier as Richard III.
Taylor Mali, former English teacher turned performance poet, is up next with his “I’ll Fight You for the Library”.
Taylor is one of my favorites and has done a number of pieces that I like. “What Teachers Make” is one of his most popular poems, but I opted to feature the above one because I think it speaks to the bureaucratic frustrations that both teachers and librarians experience.
A different poet named Taylor–sixteen-year-old Taylor Phillips–follows with her poem, “Well, Thank You”, written for the 2009 Slam Poetry recital at the Missouri Scholars Academy.
I think she rocks! Performance poetry–not just for angsty hipsters in black berets anymore.
Mary Fons is a powerful performer. Her poems tend to be a mix of humor and pathos which is a difficult combination to make work. From her 2006 show at the Gift Theatre in Chicago, here’s her poem “I Am So Young.”
Corbet Dean is a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a video of him performing at the 2002 Poetry Slam in Mesa, Arizona. This performance and a number of others are on his 2005 DVD, “A Collection of Crime Scenes”. I defy anyone to watch his performance and not cry their eyes out.
Finally, to cheer us up a bit, here’s Ivan Coyote talking about the things she learned from her father at the 2009 Vancouver Poetry Slam. Ivan is a working class gal from Whitehorse, Y.T. and I really like her dry sense of humor and understated style.
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