"He was three when he became a mixed drink/ Of one part left alone /And two parts tragedy. Started therapy in 8th grade/ Had a personality made up of tests and pills/ Lived like the uphills were mountains/ And the downhills were cliffs. Four fifths suicidal / A tidal wave of anti depressants/ And an adolescence of being called popper/ One part because of the pills /And ninety nine parts because of the cruelty. He tried to kill himself in grade ten/ When a kid who could still go home to mom and dad /Had the audacity to tell him 'get over it' /As if depression is something that can be remedied." -Shane Koyczan, "To This Day"
These heart-wrenching words of the slam poet Shane Koyczan reverberates through the air in a wave of emotion and conveys a message about a complex subject such as mental illness in the most simple and powerful way. But that's the beauty of slam poetry, its simplicity and its messages. By definition, slam poetry is a type of poem that is read/performed typically for an audience or for competition purposes, and like all poetry, can be as simple or complex as the author wishes it to be.
The slam poetry of today consists of free verses, storytelling, or compelling speeches set to the mood of a beat. For example, many bands today have gotten their start from writing slam poetry and making music along with it, such as the band La Dispute, who's most popular lyrics are simple poetry free verses in in itself:
"You still cross my mind from time to time. And I mostly smile.
Still so set on finding out where we went wrong and why
So I retrace our every step with an unsure pen,
trying to figure out what my head thinks,
but my head just ain't what it used to be.
So what makes slam poetry so compelling? For me personally, it's the rawness. Slam poetry is a way for a person to open up and spill their soul. Words can be beautiful on paper, but there is something haunting in hearing an author read his work, such a simple act, yet adding a whole other layer of depth. A book of poetry can never capture the dips and pauses of the voice, the heavy emotion or breathy sighs, swallowed sobs or cracked voices. When such open and raw emotion is added, so is a level of humanity, and no longer does poetry seem so obscure or distant to the reader (or in this case, listener).
Slam poetry creates an outlet for normal people to express themselves in a way that speaks to any audience on a very basic level, and therefore can impact more individuals. People understand people, and with slam poetry, it becomes just that: a stripped down conversation, intimate, delicate, and moving.
So I encourage you, listen to slam. On the way to work in the car, while laying in bed, while exercising-but actually listen. Words are powerful, and slam poetry has the ability to impact people and change perspectives, and in the most beautifully artistic way.
For more slam poetry, check out the following YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/ButtonPoetry
For slam poetry on the go: https://open.spotify.com/user/1268589812/playlist/...