CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – January 13, 2021
Spoken word refers to an oral poetic performance art that is based mainly on the poetic as well as the performer’s aesthetic qualities. It is a continuation of the ancient oral artistic tradition that started in the late 20th century and focuses on the aesthetics of recitation and word play, such as the performer’s live intonation and voice inflection. Spoken word is a “catchall” term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including poetry readings, poetry slams, jazz poetry, and hip hop music, and can include comedy routines and prose monologues. As spoken word poetry is performed live, it is different from written poetry, because the way it sounds is one of the main components. Unlike written poetry, the poetic text takes its quality less from the visual aesthetics on a page, but depends more on phonaesthetics, or the aesthetics of sound.
Spoken word has existed for many years. Long before writing, through a cycle of practicing, listening and memorizing, each language drew on its resources of sound structure for aural patterns that made spoken poetry very different from ordinary discourse and easier to commit to memory. “There were poets long before there were printing presses, poetry is primarily oral utterance, to be said aloud, to be heard.”
Poetry, like music, appeals to the ear, an effect known as euphony or onomatopoeia, a device to represent a thing or action by a word that imitates sound. “Speak again, Speak like rain” was how Kikuyu, an East African people, described her verse to author Isak Dinesen, confirming a comment by T. S. Eliot that “poetry remains one person talking to another”.
The oral tradition is one that is conveyed primarily by speech as opposed to writing, in predominantly oral cultures proverbs (also known as maxims) are convenient vehicles for conveying simple beliefs and cultural attitudes. “The hearing knowledge we bring to a line of poetry is a knowledge of a pattern of speech we have known since we were infants”.
Performance poetry, which is kindred to performance art, is explicitly written to be performed aloud and consciously shuns the written form. “Form”, as Donald Hall records “was never more than an extension of content.” Performance poetry in Africa dates to prehistorical times with the creation of hunting poetry, while elegiac and panegyric court poetry were developed extensively throughout the history of the empires of the Nile, Niger and Volta river valleys. One of the best known griot epic poems was created for the founder of the Mali Empire, the Epic of Sundiata. In African culture, performance poetry is a part of theatrics, which was present in all aspects of pre-colonial African life and whose theatrical ceremonies had many different functions: political, educative, spiritual and entertainment. Poetics were an element of theatrical performances of local oral artists, linguists and historians, accompanied by local instruments of the people such as the kora, the xalam, the mbira and the djembe drum. Drumming for accompaniment is not to be confused with performances of the “talking drum”, which is a literature of its own, since it is a distinct method of communication that depends on conveying meaning through non-musical grammatical, tonal and rhythmic rules imitating speech. Although, they could be included in performances of the griots.
In ancient Greece, the spoken word was the most trusted repository for the best of their thought, and inducements would be offered to men (such as the rhapsodes) who set themselves the task of developing minds capable of retaining and voices capable of communicating the treasures of their culture. The Ancient Greeks included Greek lyric, which is similar to spoken-word poetry, in their Olympic Games.
Make it a champion day!