Spoken Word Vrs Poetry

It is simply amazing the sort of arguments people choose to come up with nowadays. You may just hear the most outrageous things these days, backed by some shaky evidence and points 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 – poetry that jumped off the paper into the poet’s mouth. 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 yourself. 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 either one of our five senses or all of them at the same time . Therefore, art could appeal to our eyes, ears, tongues, noses and our sense of touch (skin).

The funny 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 childish, 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: 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 I 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 by William Wordsworth 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.

I appreciate both genres of poetry; I write both genres. They are unique and peculiar in their own rights. If you are accustomed to one of them and assume that the other is easy, you are in for trouble. The poetry ‘industry’ in Ghana is budding, let’s not make some people feel inferior because of the genre they specialize in. Let’s not do that. A win for spoken word is a win for poetry in general. Of course we know there are some not-too-good spoken word artists who throw similes and poorly-thought-out lines together, but there are very good ones out there too. It is a problem with all forms of art, not just spoken word.


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