Hey Slam Poets: Are you finding the right inspiration?
Here are 8 muses to inspire your next Spoken Word piece!
If you really want to up your game as a slam poet and spoken word artist, a continuous sharpening of the sword is a must.
Sometimes that means leaving your comfort zone and allowing different sources of information help shape your thought train.
If you use this to help you think of topics, ideas and storylines for your slam poetry, remember that you don't have to use someone else's idea (particularly if the source is someone else’s point of view).
What you're really looking for are triggers - some sort of outside influence that sparks a memory or a feeling. So that said, here's my quick list of muses that inspire creativity when I want to write a spoken word poem:
Take a walk. Take a hike. Contemplate the forest. Empathize with a pond or try to understand what secrets a swamp may hold. Check out a cave or some caverns. Behold the history of rocks. Create stories around any of these things, or simply write a poem about how they make you feel or when and how they played a part in your life.
For me, I can look at a lake and think about playing ice hockey as a kid. I remember being pretty good, but never quite good enough to be the one everyone wanted to pick first. But I wanted to be picked first (after all, who didn't?). That's an emotion. That's a story. That's the inception of a slam poem.
So how does nature inspire your next slam poem?
2. Social Media
There is a shitload of poetry influence found in different social media channels. Twitter has essentially real-time news plus snippets of thoughts from the people that you already deem interesting. Pinterest was built around pictographic inspiration – how people decorate, what people like to see in the world, amazing looking food, sexy cars, scary places. The list is infinite.
If you’re just flat out stuck and don’t know what to write about, do some espionage. Check out some Facebook pages, spy on some Instagram feeds, see what pops up on Snapchat. We live in a world where social media is the go to currency. Anything you can’t think of is probably posted somewhere in social media. Its really just a question of how good you are doing some digging and how bad you want your next slam poem to be about something different.
3. Movies. I’m definitely a movie guy. It’s a total escape from the chaos that narrates my existence much of the time. Just when I feel like my head’s going to explode, a movie brings me back to some semblance of sanity.
But movies aren’t just an escape. They’re inspiration. Plots and story lines are often entities I can relate to. Characters often spark up memories of ghosts from my past. So next time you indulge in a flick, be sure to keep an open mind for some poetry ideas that just might pop up. Big screen = big muse!
4. Books. In all honesty, I was never really big into books. Through school I was quick to get the Cliff Notes for my assignments. Which is paradoxical in itself because every time I actually start a book, I say “Man this is great, I should really read more.”
Without fail, however, every time I read a book an idea for, or a piece of, my next spoken word poem is born. There is something about the vocabulary authors use combined with the ability to paint a descriptive picture of their scene that I am impassioned by. Authors have to use words to make us, as the reader, see, hear, touch, smell, taste and feel their story. If they don’t we’ll never be engaged. We'd probably never make it through the first chapter. And the author would never make it on the New York Times Bestseller list. (Side note – does it feel like every book you pick up is a NYT Bestseller? For me it does. Anyway, moving on…)
Here’s an actionable tip for you. Next time you open a book, keep a pen and pad by your side. You might want to keep track of two things: First, you’re guaranteed to find some new words you’d love to use in your next poem! Write ‘em down. That vocabulary of yours is priceless, so let it grow. Second, anytime a side thought pops up, write that thought downl. You just might come across a muse for your next poetry piece.
5. Drive around Town
When I’m at work there are times when I hit a wall. I just get stuck. Inspiration is drained from me like a vampire sucked by blood. My drive is drowning. I’ve found that if I go sit in the kitchen or on a couch or at someone else’s work station, there’s a burst of rejuvenation.
Often a quick change of scenery is all you need to prompt that next poem. I’ve found that getting in the car and taking a drive is super helpful. It doesn’t matter who’s driving; just drive. Take that turn you never take. Go up that street you know is the long way. Visit a town you rarely see. Just take yourself out of your ‘norm’ – this is often the key to inspiring a poem that is out of the norm :)
6. The News. Social issues, global issues, crime…these are the root of some of the poems every good slam poet has in their arsenal. If you’re really having a tough time coming up with a good topic or idea for your poem, the news will flood you with them. They will mostly be on the grave or serious side, but generally stories in the news are thought provoking. More importantly than that, when you see the dirt and the shit that’s happening in the world, you probably have an opinion on it. That opinion can be your poem.
Oh by the way – its not just watching the news on TV. You can definitely read it online to save some time or even pick up a newspaper. Hey, just thought of something – what about a poem describing the transition from print to digital media? Things like phone books and newspapers are virtually gone – how does technology affect you? Wow, my post just inspired my own next poem.
7. Blogs & Posts.
So I guess that naturally means that blogs are a great place to find inspiration for your next slam poem! What’s great about blogs is they are usually pretty short and easy to consume. You can skim a hundred of them in about an hour if you wanted to. So here’s an idea – blog hop. What’s blog hopping? Great question! Type questions into Google. Any question you can think of. Then jump through a few pages of results and read the blog posts that come up. For instance if some wacko (because I’ve definitely never done this) were to Google “What the heck should I write my next slam poem about”, maybe this blog would come up along the way. So would hundreds of others. Google any question you can think of and read the posts. Then at the bottom of that blog post, see what some other recommended ones are.
You can also blog hop on a site you already know or like. Buzzfeed, Mashable, Reddit…there are millions. Just skim the headlines and see what interests you. Then let that interest spark your Google question and…voila…your next slam poem can come to life!
8. People Watch!
As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting in an airport. Man, there are millions of stories happening right now! I could write about the way people are dressed (I’m in NY, there’s all kinds of people coming and going). I can make up stories about where I think people are going and what they’re up to. What about the guy who is cleaning the bathroom? I bet I could animate his history in a non-factual way that would do justice to a stage in poem form. People are inspiration. So hit a park. Check out the mall. Visit a café. Anywhere there are people, there is inspiration for your next great slam poem.
In all honesty, the toughest part of scripting some spoken word poetry is inspiration - how do you come up with a really good topic to write about?? If these inspiration points don't help you out immediately, check out some of these posts for some ideas on what to write a spoken word poem about:
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