Everyone has some way to cope with reality. For some, this is playing or watching sports, making music, working, or compulsive cleaning. For example, painters create portraits of the beauty they find in the world to counteract their ugly realities. These small, seemingly unimportant tasks and hobbies not only give us a break from what is too much to handle, but they also transport us to an alternate plane of existence in which we live in peace. One of the bravest forms of coping that I have ever come across is slam poetry.
Slam poetry is a form of writing and performance combined in which one stands at a microphone before a live audience and a panel of judges and pours out their heart. There are different levels of these rounds like a typical competition, You could speak on any topic from being a passenger in a plane to living life in recovery from an eating disorder. You could start a poem with retorts to pick up lines and somehow end up with a striking commentary on misogyny and the true worth of women. You could start a poem talking about falling in love with someone in seventh grade and end with the resolve to keep the door open for love to stop by again whenever love wants. You could get right to the point and begin a poem with the first time you were assaulted or abused or mistreated, acknowledge how messed up it is to start a poem with, "the first time [I] was..." and keep your listeners sucked in, all wide eyes and full moon mouths trying to taste the stars you throw their way.
The thing that sets slam poetry apart from any other type of emotional escape is that it is not one.
Slam poetry is therapy. It forces you to confront what makes you the most uncomfortable, to give it a name and to consciously find it in everything you see the same way you do subconsciously. It ignites a different fire in the deepest part of you with every person you watch perform, every word that drips from their tongues onto every microphone upon every stage they grace.
The ultimate outlet for these videos and publishing opportunities is Button Poetry, featuring some of the best slam poets out there. Performers such as Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, Oliva Gatwood, Sabrina Benaim, Rudy Francisco, Blythe Baird, Rachel Wiley, Andrea Gibson, Neil Hilborn, Desiree Dallagiacomo, and so many more charm listeners far and wide with light-hearted comedy that someone gets pulled from a hat, becoming visceral and troubling and beautiful once brought into the lights on that stage.
Slam poetry is essentially storytelling that grasps for more than what can be seen or heard on the surface. Each poem has a general textbook structure, yet I feel like the ones that deviate from rhyme are the most poetic.
Poetry is defined by Oxford as, "literary works in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm." Slam poetry brings that proverbial special intensity more than any poem I've ever read by classic poets such as Dickinson and Frost.
As someone who has written poetry for an eternity and has used theatre as an outlet for emotions I have no idea how to handle, slam poetry is the answer. It is the excavation of feelings I didn't expect to uncover, and a heavy recommendation to anyone looking to feel.