Spoken Word

God forgive me, but I'm actually going to share a link to a HuffPo article

I've recently been getting into spoken word. Well, not so much recently, but more frequently than the once-a-year competition with Word Around Town. I figure if I can get some practice in, it'll help me out in the long run. 

It's fun.

I mean, again I've lucked out that I see the type of poetry that goes a little beyond what people think of when they think spoken word. I'll add a few links to the article above. Zachary Caballero's To be a Mexican man in Texas is just effing great. And if you don't feel something when you hear Amir Safi's Ode to Whataburger, you're not a Texan.  

Oh and Shane Koyczan's To This Day and Taylor Mali's What do teachers make? never fail to give me the good kind of chills.

I think if you have a chance, and if you're local, go find a poetry open mic. I think Write About Now run theirs every Wednesdays. Check with someone. I read my poem "Remembered, like Freddy" there last week and hopefully I get a chance to read another this coming week, the first spoken word poem that isn't actually about immigration in any shape or form.

I'm kinda excited about that.

See, when it comes to spoken word, I felt like that's where I've always focused my immigration poems on, mainly because I'll start writing a regular poem and then start getting angry and suddenly I'm running on two pages and I can't stop.  For instance, I wrote SB1128 as my contribution to the Librotraficante movement as we struggled to fight then-Senator Dan Patrick's hard-on for crushing Mexican-American studies in Texas. Here's a snippet:

Joan of Arc was martyred because she loved
and was loved, defenseless little girl
who made kings afraid
Tell me, Juana, will you struggle
against these legislative  ropes
as Texas and the nation watch in silence
television, distractions, stories of men
in Rome and women in London
Germans eating dinner quietly
while Torahs burn, Texans watch

...and then Tony Diaz baptized me as "Librotraficante Simbolo"

Now, I'll give you a glimpse as to how I work on my poetry, more detailed than the brief overview I gave you last week.

Step 1: Write poem in notebook with pen
Step 1 clarification: I find an image that sticks in my head and then I describe it as best as I can. Sometimes, the title is obvious giveaway about the poem (as my poem Wednesday, 6 p.m., Hogg Middle School suggests), sometimes it's not, like my poem "Carolina" which has nothing to do with a woman named Carolina, but rather, a storefront.  Image and line, basically, 
Step 2: Let poem sit for a week

Step 3: Open notebook again, type up poem. 
Step 4: Let poem sit for another week in a folder labeled 'Crockpot' 
Step 5: Open up poem and see how it looks. If it's good, save it on the larger folder with the rest of the good ones. If it's not, cannibalize the best lines and then send them back to step 1. 

(and you thought writers weren't eccentric)

But for my spoken word, it follows the same recipe as I do with my fiction, reckless abandon.

sneak peek

Because, while written poetry is beautiful and there are turns of phrase that could only make sense when read line by line, spoken word has its own beauty because you are able to add that aural dimension to the poem and you can use that to your advantage.

For instance, in Lupe Fiasco's Hurt Me Soul there's a line that wouldn't really work in 'standard' poetry.


I had a ghetto boy bop, a Jay-Z boycott
'Cause he said that he never prayed to God, he prayed to Gotti
I'm thinkin godly, God guard me from the ungodly

So it's that kinda wordplay that spoken word poets I admire go with, and the same kinda wordplay I want to engage in with my own poetry:

the same letters on your shoulder exist as Christmas lists
and the child in you writes what the adult in you interprets
as “revenge” painted in black ink 

And there's a spoken word poet in all of us. We tell stories to our friends all the time. We listen to hip hop. The poetry is there.