A Look At The Rift Between Spoken Word And Page Poetry

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The onset of the new millennium has created a new set of poets who’ve been forwarding stage poetry and spoken word, fueled by the past decade’s success of Sarah Kay and the like. To be sure, the scene has been around for a while; there’s something very alluring about poetry readings, especially to casual fans and readers.

However, this resurgence has furthered the divide between many page poets and the new generation of performance poets. And while it’s important to keep in mind that these are two different disciplines, they are overlapping if not outright intertwined.

For one, a poem is a poem wherever it is to be found; it is fueled by the need to say things in a new way and work with the heightening of language. Many beginning spoken-word poets are consumed by the need to play with rhythm and flow more than they are by the dictates of crafting. That memorized poem is still something written first and must transcend the poet reading in front.

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Secondly, too often the beginning performance poet gets lost in the appeal of wit. The witty don’t necessarily a good poem make; too much of wit makes the reader just come across as a stand-up comedian. There must be a fine balance between what’s insightful and what passes as funny or smart.

Conversely, the page poet could be a little less snobbish and judgmental of spoken word artists. Instead of brushing them aside as mediocre, they should be more patient with their stage counterparts. Direct them to more serious poets and explain why fast food poetry is not to be emulated.

Brendan Wetzel is a student of Rider University in New Jersey, where he is the recipient of the Dean Scholarship, Leadership Scholarship, the Guy Stroh Philosophy Scholarship, and the Lower Makefield Historical Society Scholarship. For similar writings, visit this blog.