Introduction to spoken word
I found about spoken word few years ago. It didn't take much for me to find out who are the best spoken word artists. I was always in love with poetry and rap so spoken word really made my day. I am not mentioning poetry without a reason because spoken word is all about beautiful lines and remarkable thoughts. The "rap part" is about the rhythm (well, rap is also about beautiful lines and remarkable thoughts but that's another hub). People often say slam poems have nothing in common with rap, but they are wrong. Slam poems are, like rap verses, written for live audience and if they don't have the rhythm, emotion and delivery that good rappers have, the words will lose their power. If the performance is right, it's a lot easier to keep attention on the words. In this hub I will try to summarize the best spoken word artists (slam poets) out there.
Spoken word masters
I will start from Shane Koyczan. He is the first Canadian who won the Individual US National Poetry Slam. He is often described as a rapping poet so it is easy to conclude that he is really good with rhymes and flow.
His most popular poem is We are more. He performed it at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but it is hardly his best poem. He is so much creative in his other poems like Move pen, move where he says final goodbye to his mother and just makes you wanting to cry.
Because in the count down to death the question of "why" melts into "when".
How much time do we have left, because if I knew what I know now then...
Move pen move, write me a mountain.
Because headstones are not big enough.
But poem that really leaves audience in tears is The crickets have arthritis, a story about ill boy named Louis who he meets in hospital.
He is not all tears and weeps. If you doubt yourself, or you are afraid of making changes you should listen to his powerful performances Grandma's got it going on (originally Help wanted) or This is my voice. Other must see/listen is a story about a geniousity named Beethoven.
Buy Shane's book
Mike Mcgee is a person full of charisma and talent. Although not popular like Shane Koyczan he is a really good poet. His style is a lot different, usually without rhymes, but with witty quotes and great sense of humor. His poems are usually very funny: Soulfood, If I were, Power of John Travolta or Like.
I like you...
Like testicles and homeboys like to hang
Like homeless people and breakdancers like cardboard
Like Americans like ranch dressing
Like Muppets like fisting. (what? you all acting like you've never seen a happy muppet:)
But when he comes up with seriousity he usually makes you wanting him to speak more and more. In I Mailed Myself A Love Letter Yesterday he says:
I promised myself a long time ago that I would never settle for average or mediocre
and that I would always try to find best and worst within myself
and maybe I'd be able to work the two out so they could learn from each other.
His love poem Open letter to Neil Armstrong (With these empty hands comes a heart that is full more often then the moon) is really nice, so you should check him out.
Buddy Wakefield is a person who introduced me to spoken word. First slam poem I ever listened was Human the Death Dance and I must say that, in my opinion, it is his best poem to this day. Even though The Information Man is much more popular, at least according to Youtube views, it doesn't have nearly as much energy and quality as Human the Death Dance.
There are still days you can catch me tape recording internal silence and playing it backwards for an empty room. Just so I can listen to his dying wish.
That motive is really powerful. Other poems i should emphasize surely include Guitar Repair Woman, a wonderful mother poem:
This is my mother,
Tresa B. Olsen.
Runner of the tight shift.
Taker of the temperature.
Leaver of the light on.
Lover of the underdog.
Mover of the mountain.
Winner of the good life.
Keeper of the hope chest.
And Convenience Stores, a nice on-the-road story where the protagonist meets a female store worker and speaks about her issues, the ending is really great.
And I'm gonna roll outta here one day.
I just might not get to drive.
You should also check Derrick Brown. He has a unique style, he is always performing with background music and often sings. I really loved his poem Meat Loaf:
I always asked my mother why diamond meant that you love someone.
Why don't give 'em a brick, or snail, or a wombat, or cat's brain to show them you are crazy about 'em.
Or trophy full of zombie lipstick to prove that you'll kiss their brains out forever.
Made more sense.
Andrea Gibson should also be in your playlist. I fell in love with her poems when I heard her touching story named Crab Apple Pirates, so if you want to give her a listen, I recommend you start from there.
Taylor Mali is the most popular artist in this hub. I would not agree that he is the best one, but he has good poems. His most popular poem is, in my opinion, also his best one. What teachers make is truly great with a lot of strength in it.
Saul Williams, Anis Mojgani and other great slam poets are out there making art daily so if you like what you hear start digging new artist and enjoy the beauty of their art.
Feel free to comment on this hub, any questions and remarks are accepted.
Favourtie slam poet
Jai Hitachiin on May 15, 2018:
awe this is so helpful... I have found another Idols
Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on April 28, 2014:
This is the first time I have come across slam poetry and you have written a fascinating hub about it. I am excited to start my journey into all the suggestions you have given here. Thanks .
micthapoet on March 10, 2014:
pretty good list. obviously lacking in the female dept., and of course some names come to mind who are missing, but you can't have everyone. I, too, am a bit partial to Taalam Acey, who puts on a ton of shows around the country (USA), and then some. In my travels and ventures, performing a bit myself, I've seen some poets blow crowds away who most have never heard of. It is an interesting and captivating art form. Always was a lover of rhyme, definitions, analogies, metaphor, word, and wordplay; I enjoy seeing and hearing poems and stories really come to life. Nice post.
derron thomas on April 06, 2013:
Hey I really love Saul Williams he should be on the list indeed. There is this kid from Kansas city who blew my mind with his style and word play should check him out on youtube "trey Newman"
MrsBrownsParlour on March 10, 2013:
Great topic. Thank you for writing this!!
Jessa Bee on February 18, 2013:
No female poets?? Ok, lame
Charu on January 18, 2013:
Hey!! This is, without doubt, an amazing list. But don't you think Sarah Kay and JeanAnn Verlee should be here too. And Rives. I don't know much about poetry... in fact, until a month ago, I wouldn't touch poetry with a 5 foot long pole, even though I love reading. But Sarah Kay's poems were the first ones I heard. And I was hooked!!! These women have got mettle. And don't forget Suheir Hammad. That woman has got a style of her own.
Anyways, thanks for your list. :)
Moesky on January 18, 2013:
I only recently discovered spoken-word poetry, not long after I discovered true-storytelling. Changed my whole direction in life. Not yet a performer, but I have started writing... poems and stories to compliment my songwriting (which I've been doing for years). These are great examples and great poets. My first favorites were RIVES and SARAH KAY. So many still to discover.
Nice to see so many enthusiasts here at Hubpages too - going to follow you all.
Keith Middleton from New York, New York on January 09, 2013:
Nice.. Taalam Acey isn't on this list tho. I feel he is Most Awesome.
I'm currently completing my own Spoken Word Album. I hope the world embraces me.
Keith Middleton from New York, New York on January 09, 2013:
Nice.. Taalam Acey isn't on this list. I feel he is Most Awesome.
Im currently finishing my own Spoken Word Album, Hope the world embraces me.
Jim Swill on October 01, 2012:
hiit on June 12, 2012:
This is very interesting post, I like your fantastic hub!
Ron from Fitness http://www.intervalstraining.net
Maurice Wisdom Bishop from San Tan Valley on May 02, 2012:
I definately know about Shane. I love the piece 'Beethoven' and another piece he did about his Grandma. Those are my 2 favorites. I do a lot of spoken word performances and still trying to find open mic places where I'm at. But anyway great article. Much Love and Respect
Raymond Braat on April 23, 2012:
Check out Tanya Davis! She is awesome! :)
Kwanabal on April 21, 2012:
@ Ripe, gud suggestion, Gaff Poetrystaff is the best i av heard from Africa,watchd his youtube video
Ripe fuel on April 07, 2012:
Wel done but their ar so many great spoken word dragons i expected u 2 mention lyk that Nigerian spoken word word Poet called Gaff Poetrystaff, who wowd d world by featuring God in his youtube video...I also luvs that defjam poetess- Sarah Jones, her voice is juicy
Alexander Thandi Ubani from Lagos on September 22, 2011:
You have here a group of talented and great poets of distinction and character. Lovely piece!
mariefontaine from Indianapolis, Indiana on September 01, 2011:
You don't have my favorite on the list...I guess I coulda took Buddy or Mike... I dig the hell outta both of them... but Rachel McKibbens is golden testicles on a mammoth sized wall street statue... (worth millions).... :) boo hiss on my metaphor... lol. But you get the idea. Another one of my faves is Jesse Parent, Zach Kluckman, Moses West, and Cuban Hernandez.
Alexander Props (author) on July 25, 2011:
Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on July 25, 2011:
Thanks for introducing this, I'll go and check some of these out. I hadn't ever heard of slam poems before. You get an interesting vote from me.
Alexander Props (author) on July 12, 2011:
Been there, done that, great vids
speakeasynyc on July 12, 2011:
Great for you to "feature" spoken word poetry. No arguments with your choices, all great poets. I am a videographer who has postings by everyone on your list except Shane & Saul (plus dozens more). If your readers want great spoken word performances, checkout speakeasynyc on youtube.
Alexander Props (author) on July 12, 2011:
I'll put youtube links in my next hub, I'm still learning :)
Thanks again :)
Ashantina on July 11, 2011:
Hey Alexander, just checked out Mike Mcgee and I really like his style and humour. Am gonna check out the other guys too, but ditto to Randy Behaviour, itd be good to put in some youtube links...
Randy Behavior from Near the Ocean on July 11, 2011:
Alexander this is fabulous. You might consider putting up youtube links so we can easily have a listen. I will be copying a pasting none the less. Spoken word is a new interest of mine. I'm trying to work up the moxie to do live reads. The last couple months I've started recording all my hub poems on soundcloud. I'm no longer petrified... baby steps :)
Welcome to hubland!