Art Recs: Spoken Word

There are a few things in life that leave me honestly breathless: the suspense of a novel, the progression of a musical piece, the unabashed movements of a singular person. And there’s spoken word poetry, which leaves me breathless not once or twice, but all throughout a performance.

There’s something so raw and so personal about spoken word poetry, like it’s music but better. A metaphor of life inspired by living, put into paper then brought out into the world. And sometime’s it’s scary, or questionable, or infuriating. But it is never boring, because it is human. 

Out of the dozens of videos I watched, Hollie McNish’s Embarrassed felt most heartfelt. Maybe it’s because of the emotion she conveys –it’s not hope, or anger, or disillusionment per se, it’s embarrassment and a sense of confusion, a feeling of injustice and helplessness at the same time. I have always advocated for the message of this video, but I don’t suppose it could have been said any better than this.

Sarah Kay is the first woman I’ve ever watched deliver spoken word poetry, all those hundreds of years ago. If I should have a daughter… is sincere, uncomplicated and adorable. I don’t think her works are necessarily groundbreaking or revolutionary, but her poetry is something that you’d stick around to hear, regardless (as they should). Her work with Phil Kaye are also equally lovely and drawn from experience.

One of the more popular spoken word pieces, Katie Makkai’s Pretty is angry, honest and thankfully ends with a measure of hope. She sounds like a mother and a teacher, and feels more persuasive for it.

The message of Jefferson Bethke’s Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus is familiar and compelling. The rhythm is good and the shots and editing are even better, but then I have a bit of a problem with watching him (his gestures put me off).

I have a bone to pick with Suli Breaks. I cannot yet appreciate what he does, or what other viewers certainly do appreciate, because I have a problem with his message, especially this one (Why I Hate School, But Love Education). His other I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate says the same thing.

By trying to negate it, they only advance the misconception of what education and school actually are, I think. School has never claimed Pythagoras’ theorem to be applicable in real life. But what it has claimed to be is a school, a place of learning (something more than books). Because school is alarmingly like the real world, with stupid expectations and exams that are unfair to your particular skill and intelligence set, but you have to trudge on and get used to it because unfair though it might be, that’s life. And it’s preparing you for it. There are successes and failures for both sides of the case, but arguing on them is a generalization at best. Saying that there is a need to reassess your motives for school, your definition of education; he claims the two to be exclusive of each other. False. School teaches you perseverance and grace under pressure, interaction. All in a controlled environment. And maybe you’d need arithmetic but not calculus in old age, but you wouldn’t have gone far if you didn’t know how to work hard for something you didn’t want. Maybe you’d build yourself a lovely network of friends when you’re older, but the mean girls and dumb people of the world won’t cease to exist. Life isn’t about building your dreams and ignoring the reality of it. Life’s about living in the world and still building your dreams.


(time to study Chem and Math again)

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