It is simply amazing the sort of arguments people choose to come up with nowadays. You may just here the most outrageous things these days, being backed by shaky evidence yet strongly believed in. Just recently, I heard someone say spoken word(oral poetry) is not poetry. Ok, before you can disqualify an item’s inclusion in a group or a particular classification, you must provide us with the appropriate classification that  that item belongs to. So then I would humbly ask, if spoken word is not poetry, then what is it?

Spoken word is basically oral poetry. Let me  take time to explain a few things before I go on to talk about the issue under discussion. Art is simply a beautiful way of expressing oneself. So you would often hear people say ‘art is expression’. However, if art is expression, then we should know that what is expressed has the power to appeal to us through our five senses . Therefore, art could appeal to us through our eyes, ears, tongues, noses and our sense of touch (skin). The amazing thing is, poetry, through imagery, is able to appeal to all of our senses. Written poetry reaches all five senses through our sense of sight, as in you would have to read it before you can appreciate its content. Oral poetry does same through our sense of hearing.  There are many who would prefer an art form that appeals to them through their sense of sight only. I find it however absurd, to express a certain level of disrespect towards an art form because it does not appeal to  you through your sense of sight. Spoken word or oral poetry, appeals to you through your ears, as in it is enjoyed best when it is listened to. This very feature does not rob it of its artistic status. You don’t look us in the eye and tell us because you don’t like the oral presentation of poetry hence it is not poetry. Then I’m sure they will come up with such baseless arguments about the fact that oral poetry does not follow the rudimentary principles of poetry like meter, caesura, rhyme etc. Well, need I address this issue? Anyway I will. As said before, art is expression.  The beauty of art is reduced where there are too many laws, rules and principles to follow. Art is not science – science deals with many principles and laws. For the mere fact that you did not see the presence of a particular literary device or other devices in a poem, does not mean it is not poetry. Artistes have the power to decide whether or not to use a particular device  in a piece. Poetry is defined as ‘the spontaneous over-flow of emotions’. Maybe I am too blind, but I need help in searching for the part of this definition that makes any reference to poetry only existing in the written form.

When cheap sources of information like Wikipedia provide information on a particular topic, it is then very expensive to remain ignorant about them. Anybody can do a research on spoken word or on oral poetry and realize it even dates back to Ancient Greece. I mean logically, one would know that before the advent of written literature, there was spoken word therefore poetic utterances existed in the oral form. Nevertheless, oral poetry is often attributed to African Cultural Traditions in the past. These poems were so essential to the day to day activities of people in the past. They were often recited to eject boredom or probably boost morale where needed. They existed in the form of hunting poetry, war poetry, panegyric poetry etc. All these were different types of oral poetry that our forefathers often appreciated. They were often accompanied by certain facial expressions and gestures that contribute greatly to the meaning of the poem in general. This is what written poetry lacks. However, written poetry is deeper than oral poetry and has a longer lifespan than oral poetry because it is documented. Oral poetry is passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth.  However, not much material can be found on most of the poems of this nature. Many people do not know that even the Psalms of David, were orally performed. Therefore, it is certain that there is a huge chunk of accompanying emotions that those of us reading them might not get because we read it.  All in all I am just saying oral poetry cannot be looked down upon. Yet I would not disagree with anyone who makes the assertion that written poetry is deeper than oral poetry.

Spoken word is here to stay. I love both written and oral poetry for various reasons and their distinct features. Your attempt to discredit spoken word as a kind of poetry only goes a long way to omit a course in the syllabus of the BA. English degree program in the university. Need I say that is absurd?


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