Poetry is a dance of words, words that force us to conceive of our world and ourselves in wholly new ways. It is a push for language to evolve, for new expressions to be heard, for undefined feelings to be understood. Poetry, in its perceived cryptic nature, reveals to us the fragilities of our minds and our experiences.
Still, some see poetry as simply words on a page, words collected and bound in a book, words that have little to no impact on our world today. It’s just something we try our hands at when spring is in the air, or we’ve been struck by cupid’s arrow, or whatnot. It’s just for high school girls or those struggling from deep depression, or for the academics.
Some forget that poetry was one of the primary ways that traditions were handed down from one generation to another in most (if not all) cultures. We forget also to that poetry is not just about words trapped on a page, hidden in some book or in some massive online collection. Poetry is about the power of words to be heard not just with ears of our mind, but with our actual ears.
It’s time to wake up to that reality and confront ourselves with poetry.
There many types of poetic styles, from haiku to sonnets. There are two, however, that exemplify the performance aspect of poetry. These two styles are dub poetry and spoken word, both of which share roots within African oral and musical heritage. Dub poetry was born in the 1970s world within the Jamaican reggae music culture, while spoken word emerged from the African-American underground community of the 1960s.
The key element of these two styles are performance, the equality between meaning and sound of words, the forging of meaning through the expression of the body. Still, trying to describe either one verbally is a daunting task. The best way to understand either form is to experience them for yourselves.
Mutabaruka – Dis Poem
Staceyann Chin – “If Only Out Of Vanity”
Gary Turk – “Look Up” (Italian subtitles)
About the poets:
Mutabaruka is a Jamaican Rastafarian dub poet, whose poetry deal with topics such as sexism, politics, poverty, race and religion. From its beginning, Mutabaruka has been a prominent figure in the world of dub poetry.
Staceyann Chin is a Jamaican spoken word poet and performance artist living in America, whose poetry explores her Jamaican upbringing, her sexuality, and the experiences of women in general. She has won numerous awards for her poems and performances.
Gary Turk is a writer, director and spoken word performer. His spoken word poem “Look Up” and its accompanying film reflect on our increasingly digitalized and media dependent world. The film, which was posted on YouTube back in May 2014 went viral and continues to generate multiple discussion on the topic.
You can learn more about each poet by clicking on the names above.