The beauty of the poetry slam

The opinions and thoughts of young people can be heard loudly in poetry slams across the world. Spoken word poetry started rearing its head in a number of cultures across America during the late 80s. It became popular at a time when people needed a way to passively vent their anger about the oppressive behaviours of their society. However, it wasn’t until it received media portrayal in TV shows and movies that it started sparking people’s curiosity.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most that this art form inevitably managed to find its way to Ireland. It was during the recession that spoken word events started popping up; people wanted to speak out about their struggles and the situations they faced. Ireland has always had a rich and vibrant history of strong storytellers, this much is evident in the literature and poetry that can be found in abundance over the last century. The growth of spoken word poetry amongst young people dispels any misconception that literary creativity and performance art is a thing of the past.
One of the biggest reasons spoken word poetry appeals to people is that it isn’t bound by a set of performance or writing rules. The way in which words are arranged doesn’t necessarily have to conform to the restrictions of traditional poetry. Spoken word can be lyrical, as though the poet is about to break into a song or it can follow an aural beat as though the poet is about to rap. The style of performance is so unique to each individual that it’s sometimes as distinctive as a signature on paper. At the heart of spoken word poetry lies a raw type of honesty and transparency that people may be reluctant to share with people they inter-act with in their daily lives.
As someone who has been writing poetry for five years, I can’t pinpoint what inspired me to begin but I’ve always had a love for writing and it plays a huge part in my daily life and how I choose to express myself and connect my ideas with others. I distinctly remember falling in love with poems by Roald Dahl, William Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson all through secondary school and I wanted to be able to write about personal topics in the same fashion but without having to follow the conventionalism of their styles.
Similarly, other young poets find themselves discussing political or social issues and these videos have gone viral on social media. These videos manage to take on large topical subjects such as marriage equality, sexual violence, abortion laws or the poverty cycle and captivate an online audience in a way that a simple Facebook post or speech might not have.
There’s also a rush and thrill attached to divulging your inner thoughts on stage and in most cases, the competitive aspect added to it is sometimes an adrenaline boost. In true open-mic style, most spoken word competition are judged based on audience reaction. The casual nature of how competitions are run makes it easy for someone who may just want to make an attempt.
So what can one expect at their first spoken word event? Tears, humour, shock and a healthy amount of plot twists. Events like ‘Slam Sunday’,’The Circle Session’, ‘Flying South’, ‘Lingo Festival’ and the annual ‘Intervarsity Poetry Slam’ are just some of many platforms that showcase the variation of talent that is often overlooked.
A list of all other Spoken word events across can be found via Poetry Ireland.