Stay in and Watch: Spoken Word Poetry

I’ve recently been recommending some great books to check out during this period of lockdown. But, as a poet myself, I would be remiss if I didn’t throw some poetry recommendations in there too! And as a spoken word poet, I was especially keen to recommend to you some poetry that you could watch (instead of just read) right from the comfort of your couch!

So here are live performance of four brilliant poems. I tried to create a varied list in terms of subject, style and delivery. I hope you enjoy!

1 – ‘Dinosaurs in the Hood’ by Danez Smith

I have watched some of Danez Smith‘s poetry performances, I kid you not, dozens of times.

Their blend of humor and lyricism and social criticism and dynamic performance style has inspired me as a performer for years. This particular poem, ‘Dinosaurs in the Hood’, gives me chills – it’s about the representation of people of color in mainstream cinema and it is searing, but it’s so SO funny: ‘I want scenes of grandmas taking out raptors with the guns they hid in the walls.’ It’s about today, but it’s also about a hope for the future where ‘nobody kills the black boy’. And that ending! Wow. They end the poem at exactly the right moment.

2 – ’59’ by Harry Baker

A fun, witty poem from a mathematician/poet: Harry Baker. Lots of clever wordplay (which Harry is really known for). I’m a sucker for a good pun. Puts a smile on my face each time I see it.

3 – ‘Polos’ by Katie Ailes

This video from American poet Katie Ailes (who, like me, has made her home in Scotland!) is really special because it blends poetry and dance.

It’s about beauty standards and the unintentional ‘lessons’ about perfection that a beloved ballet teacher instilled in her pupils.

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Katie Ailes, photo by Perry Jonsson

4 – ‘It’s amazing what you can get on the internet these days’ by Jemima Foxtrot 

‘Come with me baby. Your lips taste like anchovies. And thankfully for you, they’re my favorite food.’ 

Jemima Foxtrot is a hugely innovative performer and one of the things I love about her work is the mixture of poetry and song. You can see that here, in this short poem about a crummy internet hook-up, which, like all her work, manages to stay grounded in the day-to-day while soaring past that also to speak to other issues, like wealth and isolation in a big city.

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So there we have it, friends! Hopefully there was something in that list for you. This is a teeny tiny sample of poets whose work I enjoy (being a spoken word poet myself, I’ve had the great opportunity to see/meet brilliant poets at festivals, gigs, and literary events for the last few years and have lots to recommend!).

And, on a serious note, there are a lot of amazing performance poets out there (and performance-based artists period: actors, dancers, musicians etc.) who are struggling at this time, due to the cancellation of all public events. So if you like any of these poets, do give them a like or a share, because it does help these artists and for more people to see their work! Or better yet – buy their books and support the arts. All of the poets I’ve linked above have books out and I’m sure would appreciate your support at this difficult time. Plus, you would get some great poetry to read – a win-win!

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Thanks for reading and let me know what you thought of these poems!

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