*NOTE: For more information on the reading and prompt that inspired this essay please click here.
I was first up. But I had asked for it. I had never been to one of these events, but I still pushed myself to go first. I was sure that other performers felt the same jitters going through their unsettled fingers that held onto little sheets of paper or even journals. Those carrying journals impressed me to no end as I would imagine all the nights and mid-day epiphanies they would scribble onto a page, or even the day dreams and lofty thoughts they would half-way draw and frivolously write in hopes of capturing. These were true poets awaiting their moment to astound us with their words so profound that we would have to sit in silence and feel the urge to resist clapping because we didn’t want to ruin the moment into which they drew us.
I knew, at a place like this, that honesty surrounded me. Words of vulnerability, serious topics based on real experiences, and faces from different places gathered into this single space. I figured, before the windows got foggy from a room stuffed with emotions running, I should go first.
At my very first spoken word event, I decided to open with my original short poem about sharing a bathroom. To ease in, I figured my bathroom humor would shake the nervousness off everyone’s shoulders and hopefully my own. After I shared, the day after the event, people still remembered my bathroom poem and said they enjoyed it. Yet, this was just one of my pieces of the night; I had read and performed three more originals – one that I didn’t even think could be considered a poem. But when taking the risk, people found that last piece to be their favorite. It was raw. It was written in two minutes, but had been thought about and realized over twenty-two years. The experience was amazing.
By trying out this new outlet, a place to perform real pressing material in front of an open-minded audience, I found myself absorbing life experiences that I never knew about. My ears were on edge, my lips at ease from neither wanting to speak nor wanting to refrain from speech, and my fingers a little tingly from feeling the powerful vibrations of the voice. This was a place you could surrender yourself easily, yet somehow walk out with a greater grasp of who you are and the things you care about.
I decided to expand on my challenge from last quarter but in a different form; instead of singing cover songs in front of a crowd, I performed an original piece in the form of a poem. Being in front of a crowd is one fear to overcome, but sharing a piece that comes from your mind is a greater challenge in the sense that you are uncertain if your audience will like your ideas, thoughts, word choice or composition. However, being at a spoken word event, I was more concerned with my delivery. This is similar to my last challenge except greater because I was not only worried if people would like my voice but also if I was communicating my ideas clearly and effectively with the tone shifts and volume of my voice.
Overall, I would say this challenge was a learning experience – one that helped me learn what it means to be a poet on stage; the one who embodies experiences through language and sounds and who brings these tense emotions to life through subtle bodily motions. Something that would have helped me during this first performance is if I didn’t think of spoken word as delivering a performance but rather an outlet for a body and mind trying to relive the moment or subject of the poem and convey its meaning in the best way possible. I think it should be an emotional experience, one where you really have to trust yourself to be so passionate about the subject that you forget anything else in periphery – all bodies, all eyes, all judgments – and you are sharing this moment with one subject, one entity, whether it be slow dancing or yelling over who left the faucet running. To be a spoken word poet means to be in touch with yourself and to be so honest—so raw—that the stage is nothing but another outlet to liberate you.
Post submitted by: Christina Trieu.