Poetry, whether you realize it or not, has a large role in our culture and in 1996 the Academy of American Poets announced that April will be National Poetry Month.
So, what exactly is poetry?
The dictionary defines poetry as literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas using distinctive style and rhythm, poems collectively or as a genre of literature.
But let’s be honest, that’s a boring definition.
Poetry is for all ages and can be very powerful. It helps us see the world through a different lens. It can be a vessel for hard truths, pain, and beauty. It brings meaning and light to the vulnerable side of humanity, helping us relate to others by empathizing with them. It’s an outlet for humans to express themselves, often in hidden and clever ways, disguised to hit you with that hard truth and making it more palatable to digest. Poetry is reading between the lines.
That being said, one can easily see how learning poetry is important. Exploring language in a creative way that develops and expands one's vocabulary fostering better public speaking skills. The speed and rhythm in which one speaks can change the meaning, prompting one to read between the lines creating critical thinking skills. It can inspire a person to write stories, giving anyone, at any age, access to expressing themselves creatively.
Poetry shows us that we’re not all as different as we think we are. It’s a gateway to other cultures, pulling us all together through written word.
One of my favorite types of poetry is Slam Poetry.
"Slam poetry, popularized in the 1990's is one of the most vital and energetic movements in poetry. Slam revitalized interest in poetry in performance. This generation of spoken word poetry is often highly politicized, drawing upon racial, economic, and gender injustices as well as current events for subject manner." -Poets.org
With such heavy subject material Slam Poetry gives people, particularly younger people, (though once again poetry is for all ages) an outlet to express their frustrations with the world in one of the healthiest ways possible.
In my opinion, Slam Poetry is one of the most invigorating, inspiring, and eye-opening things a person can listen to. A lot of it isn't for the faint of heart. Such taboo subject material can be hard to swallow. But if you give it a chance it is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful forms of poetry out there. It's clever and can be funny, often in a tongue-in-cheek way and it speaks on subjects a lot of people would rather leave alone. I like to think of it as the "banned book" side of poetry. Slam poetry is a powerful way to connect across cultures, race, gender, wealth, and station. It's an excellent way to learn what young people are going through and the way they see the world.
Bellow are two examples of slam poetry. Listen as each poet speaks, what words do they emphasize? What words do they choose? What can you see between the lines? What is this young women and teacher actually saying?
(PARENTS: This video is rated PG for use of swearing. But think on that as well, poets use specific language. How does this teacher use swearing to make his point?)