Hosting a literary event can be amazing because you get to bring together a group of people who all appreciate the written word. Having speakers such as local or well-known authors is often a go-to when planning events at bookstores or libraries. But if you’re looking for something a little different, consider a spoken word artist. They can add a personal and moving performance to literary (or other) events. While a normal poetry or book reading can be entertaining, spoken word artists are able to connect with the audience on a deeply emotional level. The spoken word can be an intense form of art, so read on to see how these artists can make an impact on your event.
About Spoken Word Art
Poetry is meant to be read, but a spoken word artist writes words that are meant to be read aloud. The subject matter is usually controversial or personal, such as abuse, bullying, suicide, politics, or social issues. The spoken word can also be focused on nostalgic subjects like love, heartbreak, or childhood memories. It’s generally spoken with rhythm and often strong inflections and loud volume at times. Some spoken word artists use music as an accompaniment, but many just use their voice and words. The spoken word can even be comical; it’s all about what the poet wants to share.
Spoken word artist Venus Jones performs her powerful piece “Dear Precious.” Check out her profile on GigSalad!
If you’d like a diverse group of spoken word artists, hosting a poetry slam is perfect. A poetry slam is similar to an open-mic event for poets. However, some poetry slams have strict rules and are judged by a panel or the audience. According to PoetrySlam.org, there are a few basic rules:
- Each poem must be of the poet’s own construction.
- Each poet gets three minutes (plus a ten-second grace period) to read one poem. If the poet goes over time, points will be deducted from the total score.
- The poet may not use props, costumes or musical instruments.
- Of the scores the poet receives from the five judges, the high and low scores are dropped and the middle three are added together, giving the poet a total score of 0-30.
An interesting element of poetry slams is the audience participation. In most performances, the crowd is expected to remain fairly quiet until it’s over. Not the case with a poetry slam! The audience is encouraged to cheer, clap, or even call things out to the spoken word artist. They should feel just as expressive as the performer does. Some poetry slams even encourage the crowd to show the poet if they don’t like the performance with finger snapping and foot stomping. It’s up to you on what you’d like the rules to be!
Making an Emotional Impact
Having a spoken word artist is a creative choice for many types of events. Poetry celebrations, book release parties, and library workshops are all obvious fits. However, spoken word artists can also deliver strong, passionate messages to groups of all kinds. For example, fundraiser events for non-profit companies or charities can have a tough time turning a mission statement into donations. To soften the heart of your audience, these artists can craft a message that is raw and meaningful. Issues like violence against women, racism, terminal illnesses, child advocacy, environmental awareness, and other hard-hitting concerns are the perfect canvas for a spoken-word artist. Many have parallel passions that they can tap into for their performance.
Spoken word artist Prince Ea is an amazing example of how much words can do with his piece “I Am NOT Black, You Are NOT White.”