April is National Poetry Month, so if you’re looking for some fantastic up and coming poetic voices to bring into your life, now's the time to do it! If you are not familiar with slam poetry, or spoken word poetry, it is a fairly new performance-based style of poetry in which authors read their work aloud to an audience (sometimes at “poetry slams,” or competitions), incorporating artistic elements of rhythm, pace, volume, etc. Slam poetry’s flexibility and emphatic delivery style tends to invite young poets, as well as the opportunity to focus on social justice and other issues that can be otherwise hard to talk about.
Here are five great slam poets on the scene that everyone should be watching/listening to:
Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay
Technically they are two different poets, but though they do perform individually, they collaborate frequently. Also, as explained in this poem called The Origin Story, they have so many freakishly coincidental similarities that they might as well be the same person!
Seriously though, these guys are quite talented and prolific. They have gone on tour, published books, and they even participate in Project VOICE, which encourages literacy, empowerment, and creativity across the world.
Roche, who graduated from Princeton with a degree in classic literature, probably did not envision himself becoming a widely admired spoken word poet shortly after college. His most popular poem, a tragic and beautiful piece about his father’s alcoholism and death, quickly blew up and now has more than five million views on Youtube. His other poems similarly cover serious topics like homophobia and mental illness with a tone of sincerity and expression.
He has been performing slam poetry for years now, and each new poem he comes out with seems better than the last. In one of our favorites, he lashes out at the American public education system and focuses on the school that his sister teaches at, where teachers are not allowed to help non-English speaking children read in their native languages. A highlight is the line, “The winners of a rigged game should not get to write the rules.” Garity’s poems are always heart wrenching, and frequently informative, too.
Ingram has a way of demanding attention while she’s speaking on stage that can give you chills. Her work tends to deal with the hardships of growing up as a young black woman. This poem helped Ingram lead her school, New York University, to become the first school to win two years in a row at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.
Watsky got his start in slam poetry when he was only 15, and has been producing work since then. His performance style is fast-paced and clever, and his poems can be almost rap-like. In fact, he does rap now and has released several albums. He has developed a faithful following partially by appealing to nerd culture, with many of his poems standing up for kids who might’ve been kind of geeky in high school. (One such poem is S for Lisp). A multi-faceted poet, Watsky’s Youtube channel features his poems, raps, videos he has produced, and vlogs.