Writing Spoken Word Poetry in Seventh Grade English

13 Jun 2018
ByJedd H '23

For our final project of the year in seventh grade English, every student wrote and performed a spoken word poem. Spoken word poetry is an art where people perform their feelings, lives, and thoughts to get all the emotions hiding inside of them out of their body. The steps to completing a spoken word poem may seem easy: write a poem and orally perform it. They can also be scary: Students overwhelmed by the fear of speaking from the heart. Full body trembling, hands shaking like an earthquake, and sweat rolling down from head to toe like a drop of water on the window after rainfall. It can also be a beautiful experience, an opportunity, rather than just a graded assignment. I know this because I was once on both sides: scared at first but then coming to realize its personal significance.

My spoken word poem was based on a similarity that I shared with two friends in my class. We all have brothers; however, I am the middle child and my partners are both the youngest child. We chose that topic because it was relatable and easy to elaborate on. We all had something to say about our birth order in our families of all boys and many listeners would connect to our stories.

It can also be a beautiful experience, an opportunity, rather than just a graded assignment.

We started by making a list of what younger and middle children share and what they don't. Each person in my group wrote their part as if they were doing their poem solo. Then, we mixed and mashed parts until our three poems had united to become one wonderful poem. After we had finished the writing portion of the assignment, we started to practice the speaking section of it. That was the most challenging part of the process because I had never taken poetry to that level. So, I watched countless spoken word poems online and got a sense of how to perform it in a way that would move the audience. We decided to say our lines describing our similarities together in unison and to say the lines describing our differences individually. When we said a line in unison, it was louder and clearer, and we emphasized important lines with hand gestures and body movements alongside with our voices.

Memorization and recalling words are often the most nerve-racking part of spoken word, so I will quickly share some tips to help. I found that reading my poem backward line by line helped it stay in my mind. When I was performing, if my nerves started to make me forget my lines, I would take a deep breath. This made me feel more comfortable and then the lines would roll off my tongue. Because I had helped write the poem, it was easier for me to remember.

As I lay back on the last Friday of school and watched my classmates perform their poems, I felt brilliantly moved in my heart. People whom I had never heard talk before were speaking about subjects I did not know they associated themselves with. In that instant, I realized that spoken word poetry is for everyone. Regardless of your shyness, writing abilities, and nervousness, it brings out a new and improved side in everyone, and I learned that it gives people a chance to say what they always wanted to say.