Almost three years ago my mom knocked on my room’s door and asked me if I was crying or singing. I lied and said I was singing, and she laughed through the wood and said I sounded like a dying animal, and that I really shouldn’t quit my day job. I was sitting on my desk with my laptop in front of me. I had just seen my first spoken word poem: Phil Kaye’s ‘Teeth’. I was extremely unsure of what had just happened, or why I was crying, but I also felt extremely happy and connected to something awesome. Since ‘Teeth’ is the first spoken word poem I ever experienced, it seems appropriate to start with it on this playlist.
1. “Teeth” by Phil Kaye
This poem is about family identity and history. Phil Kaye tells the story of his seemingly conflicting ancestry. I won’t reveal the details here because he unravels them in a surprising and beautiful way and I don’t want to dull his story by revealing the edge. I will say that his words are filled with inherited pain, that I think anyone who has grandparents and ancestors who have known great loss can understand.
Favorite line / Your new facebook status: “I will never forget what happened to our family, Granpy”, and he looks at me with the surprised innocence of a child struck for the first time. “Phillip, forgetting is the only gift I wish to give you.”
If you liked this poem, watch Repetition. Just as amazing. Did I mention he went to Brown? Go ahead and swell with pride. I know I freaked out when I learned this right before starting my freshman year. Learn more about him on his website. I emailed him to ask him if he was planning on coming to Brown to perform any time soon. Hopefully the answer is yes.
2. “Stargazer” by Dominique Christina
Sometimes I’m really disappointed when I’m jumping from spoken word poem to spoken word poem on Youtube. Some of the poems with the most views fall flat on my ears, and while they have truth in them, many offer only cliché lines and expressions that I’m tired of hearing. Dominique Christina is not one of these flat-voiced poets. Her voice rises with her words. She brings to the table her own experiences, served raw and unfiltered. You can tell that she is not performing memorized emotions, and that they are coming out from her fresh even if the words themselves are memorized. In this poem she speaks about her healing process after being a sexual abuse survivor, and of the transcendence of love.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: He is smiling in my ear, I can hear those pretty white teeth. He did not know redemption could quiver so pink. I did not know redemption could quiver so pink.
Dominique has been slamming for barely two years and has already won a couple of National titles. She’s amazing and is apparently coming to Brown University on April 7th of next Spring. Put that in your calendar, it will be awesome.
3. “On Beauty (For Queer Colored Boys)” by Paul Tran
I saw Paul Tran perform last year, and I’m generally strictly not a fan of snapping, but I almost snapped my fingers off for him. I will deny this when confronted. I wanted to compliment him one day when I walked by him (he goes to Brown, I swear I’m not featuring Brown Students and alums on purpose, it’s a strange and beautiful coincidence that this is the second one), but I had made the mistake of reading how great he is on his website and figured anything that would come out of my mouth would be the drollest most boring thing he’s ever heard, so I checked my phone, avoided eye contact, and cried myself to sleep that night. But seriously, don’t miss an opportunity to hear him. The next time someone asks me what I see in spoken word, and why it is so different to hear the poet instead of reading words from a page, I will point them to Paul Tran.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: When a man you do not know calls you beautiful, do not believe him. When a man you do not know asks if you’re alone, do not say yes.
Also I want to take a second to say that everyone at Brown should be proud of the amazing spoken word poets who go or have gone here. More people should be into going to spoken word events on campus, including myself. Why can’t I ever find out when they take place?
“To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang” by Rachel Rostad
Rachel Rostad’s piece brings into focus the issues of race representation in popular culture. I would elaborate on her points and why representations of non-white races are problematic in popular culture, but she brings the point across much more powerfully than I ever could. Her piece did spark some controversy. Some of this controversy is elementary and what I like to call stupid-people-with-youtube-accounts-being-stupid controversy, but some of the controversy is worth exploring. But even more worth exploring is Rachel Rostad’s eloquent response to it. I wanted to write a piece on how to respond to backlash to a cause, and maybe I still will, but for now, let this amazing poet give you the lesson.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: No wonder Harry Potter’s got yellow fever. We giggle behind small hands and “no speak Engrish.” What else could a man see in me? What else could I be but what you made me? Subordinate. Submissive. Subplot.
5. “Rigged Game” by Dylan Garity
Dylan Garity illustrates the unfairness of a public school system that bans teachers from helping students in their native tongues, and then punishes the students for not meeting the ‘expected’ grades in their standardized tests. All of his similes and metaphors hit the mark and make me wish I had a tiny Dylan Garity in my pocket that I could bring out to talk for me when I get worked up about failing school systems. He is very concerned with how schools, many times forced by absurd laws, ignore children’s cultural background and heritage and expect that this is the road to their success; and he often posts about it on his facebook page. And hey look! The Huffington Post loves him too.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: Improving a school by picking its pockets is like tuning a guitar by ripping off the strings.
6. “If Only Out of Vanity” by Staceyann Chin
In her poem, Staceyann Chin voices how she wishes to be put under miscellaneous in future history books, and expresses revulsion towards our compulsive need for categorization. She certainly succeeds eluding definition in this poem. At first I thought the poem was about aging and nostalgia but it is about much more. It is full of desire, and a love for making waves. If you couldn’t tell by the fire in her eyes and the energy in her movement, the poet is a political activist who is not afraid to talk about any taboo ever. You can hear her talk about her period in one of her longer pieces. She really manages to enchant viewers in that scary kind of way, like watching a pyromaniac play with fire. Well I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but she definitely enchanted me.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: I want to write the poem that the New York Times will not print because it might start some kind of black or lesbian or even a white revolution.
7. “Ashes” by Andrea Gibson
People who don’t fit into the white heterosexual identity are common targets of hate crimes. But you already knew this; we hear about these cases too often. So often, that the victims’ names begin to meld with each other. ‘Ashes’ recounts hate crimes from the perspective of a dead victim, looking down into the world, and Andrea Gibson (also known as, My Favorite Human Being) is the perfect poet to have captured this poem. You can tell she feels every syllable of what she is saying, and it is goddamn sublime. The bio in her website says she was born in Maine, but I know for a fact that she materialized from a moon ray. Unfortunately, she isn’t coming to Brown anytime soon, but that might be a good thing. I’m pretty sure anyone who hears her in person automatically disintegrates and rejoins the universe flow or something.
Favorite line/Your new facebook status: All they know of hate is that it couldn’t beat the love out of me
By Maria Orbay-Cerrato, Blog Editor
All Images via Google Images