Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Words! Uhh! What are they good for?

The gift of literacy along with conscience is probably what sets us humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom (more for some than others!). Our ability to play around with words be it in speech or prose can trigger an entire host of emotive reactions whether deeply or superficially. And sometimes what we say and write can be compelling enough to give our audience more than just 'food for thought', it can have the power to mobilize the masses.

Case in point: Bush's ever-escalating and desperate rhetoric about Iran's nuclear ambitions and Amhmedinajad's almost instant rebuttals are equally evocative for their respective followers to the extent that you have what we currently have in the shape of Iraq and its possible far-reaching consequences for the entire region.

But I digress, this post is suppose to be about something on a much smaller yet equally evocative scale. Something that starts from the gritty grassroots of your average community- be it divided by race, religion and now increasingly money - but has the artistic flare and delivery to bring even a small amount of people together for the greater good. That something is Spoken-Word Poetry. I know I know, you're probably thinking 'Is that all?' and you wouldn't be alone in thinking so as I was debating this same idea with a friend of mine recently and he refused to think that poetry has a place in making a positive change in anything and to an extent I'd agree because it all depends on the content.

Granted its all subjective and you either agree with what one Spoken-Word artist has to say or you don't and even though the history of this form of poetry is relatively new, poetry and prose in general has been around a lot longer and has definitely made its mark in human civilization. Perhaps a good example of this is the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius and how his works still have a tangible affect on the everyday running of the huge and growing Chinese economy, an impressive feat not doubt!

Spoken-Word poetry and its public exhibition in the form of Poetry Slams began in America in the 1980's and was a popular way of expressing oneself on pressing issues such as crime and gang violence and it has since spread much further afield to places like here in the UK to Bosnia to New Zealand. Granted too that its sheer international appeal doesn't necessarily make Spoken-Word poetry (and those who perform it) as effective as brute force for the greater good but I really don't think we should all lose faith in the natural goodness of the human spirit. And while it is true that most Spoken-Word poets are activists FIRST and artists second they still have the ability to move their audience in making a positive change no matter how small that change may be. Collectively this can be the kryptonite needed to put an end to the unjust powers that be in the world.

And to all the cynics who still refuse to see this and think I speak of a Utopian dream or sound like a Disney commercial, I don't blame you but at the same time if we don't have dreams or aspirations in life, then what's the point of living? In fact human civilization wouldn't get as far as it has if it weren't for the pioneering few who lead the uninspired and quiet masses to share their aspirations.

People like Martin Luther King, Shakespeare and Gandhi are simply the latest in a long line of influential individuals who just happened to have dreams and aspirations. People of different faiths, cultures and principles follow those because a pioneering person set an example in their life.

As lengthy as this entry is I feel it sheds light on a hugely overlooked and underestimated power of human-beings: The spoken or written word.

Here are a few of my favourite Spoken-Word artists whom I hope will inspire you to do something positive in your life and the lives of others.

Taylor Mali - "What Do Teachers Really Make?"

Brian Dykstra - "Pushing Bush"

Suheir Hammad - "First Writings Since" (revised)

This last but one brings back childhood memories of me and my sister and it's up here for no other reason but to share the innocence of just being a kid.

Rives - "Op-talk"

1 comment:

Mybrid said...

I dunno. Never got to liking poetry. Why say something in five words if you can use five paragraphs? I'm a fan of using more words than necessary. Making it very clear. Never leaving room for misunderstandings, double-entendre's, and humour attempt.

That's just me. I know I'm alone among many who love poetry.