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Passions in Poetry

NEED Your Help - Where can I learn how to write slam/spoken word poetry?

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since 08-07-2010
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0 posted 08-07-2010 03:39 AM       View Profile for zinc   Email zinc   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for zinc

Now I'm just going to preface this by saying that I am a noob in terms of writing poetry and I'm sure my question (that is, how to write "slam poetry") will be answered with "learn how to write poetry, period" but I just had a few questions about that.

Many (slam) poets that I've heard in interviews said that certain pieces they write are simply not meant to be performed, some like Shane Koyczan suggested to "work backwards when writing a performance piece" and sometimes he "feels" whether a piece will work or not, implying that when trying to write a performance piece it doesn't always work.

So basically my question is do you recommend any books on helping a beginning with writing poetry that may also have a section, or advice, on writing performance pieces like that of spoken word?
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since 12-31-2005
Posts 2710

1 posted 08-07-2010 03:26 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch


I've listened to some slam poetry, Shane Koyczan being a particular favourite of mine -  anyone who can describe politics  as "A Latin word consisting of two parts - poli meaning many and tics meaning blood sucking butt lumps" deserves to be listened too.

Listening to slam poetry I'd have to give you the answer you were pretty much expecting, to learn it you need to learn poetry because the two are one and the same thing. Shane Koyczan uses all the devices used in written poetry and all written poetry, the best written poetry, only comes alive when read aloud. So your question should be "how do I write poetry suitable for a slam poetry event".

There are a lot of people here who could help you with that particular question and they're a lot more interactive than books. I wouldn't mind helping you along too but I'm not sure whether I know enough about poetry to be of any assistance.

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since 12-31-2005
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2 posted 08-07-2010 07:02 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

Is Poetry isn't

I stumbled into a post in an online forum
Positing the question of how to write slam poetry
live and out loud with a message ingrained, like it ought to be,
With each word arranged on the edge of your brain
When it occurred to me, in some light bulb epiphany,
That I'd no idea how to dissect the slam from slam poetry
Without ripping the history from Thomas or Kipling,
Kerouac, Keats, Blake, Lord Byron, Koyczan and Yeats.
Denying the thing that tied Shakespeare to Poe
Was one place I guess I was unwilling to go.

So instead of defining the tree from the wood
The bad from the good and the difference
Between one and the other, it'd be easier to start at the end
Rearrange, change, amend - redefine the demands
Because in the end all good poetry slams.

Member Caelestus
since 06-25-99
Posts 67715
Listening to every heart

3 posted 08-07-2010 10:18 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine


Welcome to Passions.

This last April I was given the opportunity to listen to Patricia Smith. I remember her telling her SRO audience that she wishes she had never been dubbed the title of "Slam Queen" - rather she would like to be known as a poet who reads poetry on a presentation level.

Slam poetry doesn't put anyone down - it does highlight presentation poetry, and a shifting body, lowering vocal tones, raising them in cry, lifting a hand, speaking in truth...all relates to "slam" poetry. Haven't yet researched myself why the word "slam" ever came into play...but quite possibly it would be because it was slammed down as presented, take it or leave it...

a connotation quite unlike what it first appears to promote.

But Grinch, as he does, nailed it. To write any poetry, one must first have an affinity for, and practice poetry. Read what you can about it - never defer to "I'll do what I want to do" before studying as much as you can about it.

This is probably way too old a comparison, but think of Jack Benny. He couldn't play the violin THAT badly, before he knew how to play it very well.

New Member
since 08-07-2010
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4 posted 08-08-2010 12:30 AM       View Profile for zinc   Email zinc   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for zinc

Thanks guys.

Grinch, that was such an especially amazing reply, I loved that poem! Just out of curiosity, where did YOU learn how to write poetry? Are there any resources you would recommend?
Member Elite
since 12-31-2005
Posts 2710

5 posted 08-08-2010 07:50 AM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

Where did I learn how to write poetry?

I'll let you into a little secret - I'm still learning, Shane would probably tell you the same thing too if you asked him. I can tell you how I started to write poetry and where I learned some of the basics if that's helpful.

It all started for me when I was a kid, I got ill, not deathbed ill, just that stay in bed run of the mill bouts of sickness all kids get. The only danger I was in was from boredom, if it happened now I could do it standing on my head with the aid of a pile of books a steady stream of coffee but back then my attention span didn't extend to long books. My mum though didn't know that, she went out and bought some second hand children's books from the local market and piled them beside my bed, among them was the spark that got me interested in poetry.

The book was called 'A Childs garden of verse' written by Robert Louis Stevenson and one particular poem 'spoke' to me, I couldn't believe it, this poem was about me it was as if it was written for me, at that point I wanted to be Robert Louis Stevenson.

I read that book cover to cover maybe a thousand times, I worked out the pattern of the words, how the tune was created. I noticed the beats and the importance of sound - not just rhyme but how some words just naturally flowed and some jarred and that both were useful - and then mum said I wasn't sick anymore, I dropped the book like a hot coal and went out to kick a ball around a field.

A couple of years later in a lesson at school the teacher read a poem by Dylan Thomas and for homework challenged the class to write a poem. I got home at four o'clock, by ten past had written my first poem, and was kicking a ball around a field quicker than you could say onomatopoeia. The next day in class the teacher said that only a handful of kids had managed to write a poem and that amazingly one kid had managed to write a half decent villanelle. She read my poem out loud, not to the class though, she read it to the whole school, I was so embarrassed I swore I'd never write another, I guess deep down I was pretty proud too, once the bruises healed, because I continued to write poems - I just kept them to myself.

I'm not suggesting you need to get ill to learn the basics of poetry Zinc, my suggestion is that you study a poem that you like, work out how it ticks and then try to copy the style. Can you learn poetry from a 'how to write poetry' book? I guess you could, I didn't though, part of me is always sceptical as to why the folk writing those books aren't too busy writing kick-ass poetry. If you ever find a 'How to' book by Dylan Thomas though - let me know.

Read through these forums, find someone who writes like you want to write and ask them how they do it, if you can't find a poem that 'speaks' to you post a challenge to write something in the style you're looking for. Like I said, there are a whole bunch of folk who could help you out - interactively.

Hope that helps.

[This message has been edited by Grinch (08-08-2010 10:45 AM).]

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