As a writer, words soothe me. When I’m feeling stressed and searching for some wisdom to get me through the day, you can probably find me obsessively scrolling through the “Quotes” board on Pinterest. Or, when I’m really in need of some inspiration, you can find me listening to endless spoken word videos on Youtube.
If you’ve never heard of it, spoken word is just another term for performance or slam poetry. Videos feature writers who also double as actors in a way, performing their work aloud and with great emotion and verbal emphasis. Spoken word poetry is powerful. It catches your attention and forces you to listen, preventing you from “skimming over” the piece like you might if it was a written poem. It brings the words to life, making them even more relatable and soothing to those who listen.
Needless to say, they can be pretty awesome. Here are four spoken word poems that you need to hear.
1. “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers
Favorite line: “I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it. I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so. Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return.”
Have you ever hated your own body? Wished to be smaller so you could fit into society’s definition of “perfect” and “pretty?” This poem by Lily Myers is for you, then. Myers talks about her mother and the other women in her life who constantly “shrink” themselves by striving to lose weight. Her scathing but moving words hammer home an important point that all women need to hear once and a while: we need to accept ourselves as we are, skinny or fat, small or big. We need to stop shrinking ourselves (metaphorically and physically) and be proud of the beautiful women we already are.
2. “When Love Arrives” by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye
Favorite line: “When love arrives, say ‘Welcome, make yourself comfortable.’ As love leaves, ask her to leave the door open behind her, turn off the music, listen to the quiet, whisper ‘Thank you for stopping by.'”
This lighthearted poem is a fun watch for everyone, and the chemistry between Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye is undeniable. The way they speak is so in sync and melodic that listeners can actually feel the happiness and excitement that new love holds. The pair manages to keep a sweet and sentimental feel throughout, making it relatable beyond belief: love can be sweet and sometimes not-so-sweet, but always worth it. This is a spoken word poem that will stick in your head for years to come.
3. “The Type” by Sarah Kay
Favorite line: “Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman men will hurt. If he leaves you with a car alarm heart, you learn to sing along.”
Kay, somewhat of a rock star in the spoken-word world, makes a reappearance on the list with “The Type.” This poem hits hard for any girl who has ever felt that her sense of value is wrapped up in receiving love from a man. Kay quietly talks about the different types of women we sometimes all are, but ends with an empowering message: we were born to build and we are enough just as we are. Kay was inspired to write this piece by a line from “Detail of the Woods” by Richard Siken: “Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.”
4. “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim
Favorite line: “My depression is a shapeshifter. One day it’s as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear. The next it’s the bear.”
Benaim manages to make living with depression, a serious topic and common problem, poetic and relatable with beautiful metaphors and imagery. Her frantic voice brings life to a feeling many experience, and her openness is courageous and encouraging. The way Benaim reads her piece makes the overwhelming feeling of depression palpable, and for a few minutes we can all understand what it feels like to live with it. Benaim’s piece doesn’t conclude with a perfect, happy ending, but it does make you feel a whole lot of compassion and empathy, something the world could always use a little more of. The best part? Listeners are left with more hope at the end than they had before tuning in.
Spoken word poetry can be a an engaging, digital alternative to the written (and sometimes boring) form that’s taught in school. Videos of the poets speaking their pieces bring the words to life and spice up poetry in a way that everyone can enjoy. For more spoken word poems, check out Button Poetry, TED, or just search Youtube to get started and open up a whole new world of beautiful words.
Featured Image via screengrab from Youtube.