Have you ever thought about how lovely it is to watch someone do what they love? How inspiring it is to see that kind of passion and spark for something?
I ask these questions with something already in mind; what brings out this sort of admiration for me is the art of slam/performance poetry. Spoken Word.
I recently attended a Spoken Word show for Andrea Gibson and Sarah Kay, two poets who are near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. I started getting into poetry when I was a sophomore in high school, and Andrea Gibson’s pieces on YouTube were some of the first I came across while I was exploring this phenomenal art form. Sifting through other popular pieces of the Internet also led to Sarah Kay’s work, and I was immediately hooked when I saw her TedTalk on “If I Should Have a Daughter.” I remember trying to emulate their styles and trying to see life through metaphors like they had done so beautifully, so elegantly, so wonderfully. Over the years, however, I’ve developed my own style and am more confident in presenting work that does not feel like a simple imitation of what is popular on the Internet. Even still, it’s amazing to come full circle and be able to see two of my biggest inspirations on stage together.
As a poet, I am constantly looking for new ways to express my emotions or to explore how creative I can be to express something. I remember being so moved by Andrea and Sarah’s pieces, even from behind a screen. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, I want to make others feel what I’m feeling right now when I listen to them.”
I don’t want to just give away the details of what pieces these poets shared, but I cannot forget all the chills and goosebumps I got from hearing both of these poets’ sets. Seeing them up there brought me back to the high school days where I would sit in front of my computer with a pen and paper, listening to all of their pieces online. I tried taking notes on what sounded “good” to me -- truthfully, that just resulted in copying pieces of their poems over and over again so I could start to feel them come together in my own mind -- but I realized quickly that striving to be at a level of eloquence that has taken years to perfect was rather unrealistic.
I can recall being frustrated when I felt that I didn’t “sound like them” or I wasn’t “good” like them. Now that I’ve had more experience performing on stage, writing more often, and processing my emotions in college, I find that that stuff doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve realized how much other people can appreciate hearing other people’s truths and stories, and that can be expressed in any amount of prose or poetry, eloquent or not (what is eloquence anyway? Who decides what is eloquent?) Seeing them perform affirmed for me how important it is to simply do what I love, and to keep doing it because if I know I can reach one person with my words, it is enough for me to know that it is worth my time. And even if I don’t always reach someone with every single piece, I know that I am writing for me. Hearing Andrea and Sarah’s powerful pieces felt like such an honor because I could tell how much processing and craft went into the writing, and I understand how difficult it can be to get on stage and talk about struggles and immense hardships.
Being at the show reminded me that I have this unshakable passion for poetry that I always want to continue to nurture. I am thankful to have these inspirations to look up to and to remind myself being able to write my own truths through my poetry is powerful.