Help with writing slam poetry series
Not too long ago I posted an article with some ideas and topics for writing slam poetry.
A lot of those ideas were planted to help you develop your own thoughts and be inspired to churn out new material.
As someone who has been writing and performing spoken word for quite some time, I often feel...underwater.
Meaning my poetry all seems to exist in one single environment, though the topography might change from piece to piece.
I'm constantly looking for subject matter that will help me break through the surface of that fish tank and fly like a bird.
I need new, different and engaging material.
Along with that, style variation and fluctuation can enhance the piece.
I say that because I've watched so much slam poetry on YouTube that it almost makes me sick (or at least my eyes start to go blurry).
Now don't get me wrong - I respect anyone who attempts to slam.
However, originality appears to be lost in both topic and style. It seems like everyone wants to deliver their work in the same style - similar intonation and body movement.
My advice: STOP watching so much YouTube. Yes, I said it - and yes, it contradicts my previous teachings.
But trying to thrive in the legacy of another is not the way to intersect your talent with your potential.
I have to reiterate something I said in my blog The Art Of Spoken Word Poetry: there are no rules and there's no actual "correct" way to write or perform spoken word or slam poetry.
If there are words on a page, and you bring them to the stage - THAT is spoken word.
If you're unique in topic and delivery, you're going to get noticed. Blending in with the masses only camouflages the message you're trying to convey.
All that said, I write this post for you as much as for myself.
Here are some very different topics and ideas for your next spoken word piece. And I urge you to break the surface! Push further. Dig deeper (sorry, too muchInsanity).
Think about your words, your story, your message - think about the style that meshes with those things.
Is it a powerful message? Then speak loud!
Is it somber? Then show me the fucking lump in your throat!
Is it funny? Then rampage the stage like a fucking clown!
Be different, BE YOU! Spoken word is growing older - let's keep it fresh and evolving!
5 Different Ideas, Subjects & Topics for Your Next Slam Poem
1. Go completely abstract. Write about a dream you had.
From my experience, dreams don't start or end with a finite beginning or finish line.
Maybe your story, your poem, starts with you running through a forest of fire and it leads to your elementary school and you can identify the people staring at you, you can hear their comments - things you thought people said about you behind your back.
Or perhaps you're floating on a cloud watching yourself play soccer as a kid and then as you kick the ball you fall through the earth into the pits of hell - take it somewhere!
Maybe you dreamt about a birdhouse, lived in it, and wrote graffiti on the walls - what was that like? And for the delivery, the spoken part of your words, who knows, maybe go up to the stage blindfolded or turn your back to the audience the whole time.
Maybe even deliver it from the audience, yelling aloud and moving through the crowd. Whatever you choose, make sure its in alignment with your story.
2. Your rendition of something. If you've ever seen a play, watched a movie or even took in a concert, there's a good chance you have your own perspective and outlook of the story line, the message or the theme.
And your view might differ from that of your friend or your neighbor or a critic. So as an idea for a spoken word piece, you could do one of these things:
Here's an example of how this could unfold: I saw Wu-Tan Clan in concert back in 2007 in Orlando, FL. For anyone who's a fan, you probably know that RZA is very tight with Quentin Tarantino. So much so that they actually brought him out on stage - he performed a verse from Rules with The Clan.
When I looked at him on stage, I identified in a different way than many.
As a poet who spent a lot of time in the street and in rehabs, etc., I've often been the "token" dude in the crowd. I'm a dorky white kid from the 'burbs. Seeing Quentin on stage with Wu-Tang (who I idolize, still to this day), resonated with me.
That's inspiration to write a whole lotta shit!
I could write about what its like to be the token white kid. Or what its like to be run with crowds of very different-minded dudes from different backgrounds than me.
I could also take it one step further and write what it would feel like to hang with my idols for a day. The list goes on - experiences like this breed ideas.
3. Rewrite a classic. This is similar to my thought above, but stays more within the realm of poetry and storytelling.
For instance, one of my favorite books growing up was Shel Silverstein's Falling Up. Something I've always wanted to do was create an ode to some of the work that helped shape me.
Be cautious of copyright infringement, but sometimes old things are great inspiration.
They can be books, stories, poetry or even just characters from one of those.
I'd definitely do Hop On Pop and Cat In The Hat!
Maybe even add a bit of a spin to it - The Cat In The Hat With Tourrettes; or The Alley Cat In The Hat and make him a junkie (sorry, my own twisted mind).
4. Take people watching to a whole new level. Whether its sitting on a park bench, riding shotgun in your buddy's car or being a voyeur from a glass window above, watching what people do is fantastic - and absolutely hysterical when in the right mind frame.
There are a lot of places you can take people watching.
You could pick a particular passer-byer and write down all your thoughts on that person - build them a life, a history and a personality.
Maybe its funny, maybe its about an axe murderer who works 9-5 in corporate America - make it up.
Or you can focus on a group of people together, inject yourself into their world and write "what its like to be a high school cheerleader" or "fraternity guys are the shit" or "wannabe comedians that have huge brains are god's gift to the planet".
Again, make it up.
You could also take bits and pieces of your observations and write about your day of people watching holistically. Grab some soundbytes from this person, some fashion notes on this one, etc. and compile stories from there. OR, you can end up writing about how dirty it feels to become a voyeur for the day :)
5. Write your life's resume in the form of spoken word. This is something I only thought of recently. I'm working on mine.
I think using a resume as a slam poem topic is something totally different and unique.
Even if a thousand people created one, they would all be distinct.
Much like a 'rape poem' (a topic that's been slammed about so many times - except not from the male point of view **ahem, hint, topic**), they are all a little different and never fail to hit home.
Check back soon, I'll be posting and linking to my own life's resume poem. I'm excited about it!
Slam poetry is as much about your message as it is about the story and about the performance.
Not every spoken word piece has to contain a grave message or be a resounding tale with earthquake impact.
At the end of the day, it conveys who you are and how you feel, and you're judged by how you present and depict that story and emotion.
If you think a poem about eating apples on a rainy day can't be as powerful as a poem about your brother getting the electric chair, you're vastly mistaken.
Using poetic tools in the correct manner can escalate any piece to the status of "impactful". I hope you found some new ideas today!
For hundreds of topics and ideas for slam poems, check here!