To Verse Aloud

Spoken Word Poetry“. I was introduced to this term fairly recently thanks to a friend from a college literary folio. Initially I was boggled: what was spoken word poetry? What made it different from the other forms of poetry around today?

When I asked my friend about this, he explained that “spoken word” refers to poetry that is specifically written to be read in public. In a broad sense, this definition can apply to poetry as a whole, since after all, poetry is a play on the use of language. Poetry is supposed to tantalize the ear and trick the imagination with imagery and other devices. What was the difference between “spoken word” and merely delivering verses the way many of us did in school recitation?

To help me answer my question, my sister pointed me to the Def Poetry series on Youtube. This apparently is an event where celebrities and poets are invited to read pieces, sometimes even their own compositions. The topics range from politics, to feminism, to literature, and just about anything that can strike the human fancy.

One of my favorite clips from Def Poetry is Taylor Mali’s “You Know”:

I began wondering where could I find a similar event here in Manila. Fortunately at the time I learned of Def Poetry, my friend invited me to drop by the Bigkas Pilipinas tour: a series of spoken word poetry-open microphone events held in various malls throughout the metropolis. My sister, my cousin and I decided to catch the tour when it would be at Tsokonut in SM Makati. We were treated to works from spoken word poetry veterans, as well as from newbies to the scene.

At some point in the program, my cousin and I ended up volunteering each other to read our own works. If I had already been intrigued by spoken word poetry by simply listening to it, I was completely enamored by the experience of reading verse in public. It is more than the rush of overcoming stage fright or fear of criticism from an audience. To read a verse is to make it come to life, to imbue it with your own voice such that it becomes part of you. This perhaps is the power of spoken word poetry: the power of people owning up to words.

I haven’t had the chance to catch up with the spoken word poetry scene lately thanks to a busy schedule, but that hasn’t dampened my craving for language come to life. Hopefully I will get to attend another spoken word event again; the next I know of is “Love thy Will Be Done” at Powerbooks Greenbelt, this coming February 12 at 6pm. This event will supposedly feature ten of the veterans on the spoken word scene; it will certainly be a treat for anyone to hear, regardless of how deeply (or not) one is enamored with language.


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