Spoken Word Poetry

Spoken Word Versus Written Poetry



“How is spoken word different from written poetry?” The answer: spoken word is performed, and the other is written. Written poetry is typically for the page. So the focus for written poetry is readability, visual understanding, and comprehension.  I am no James Baldwin, but this seems to be a good rule of thumb. 

Spoken words focused on the vocal aspects of delivery. Such as:

Articulation - How well and correctly we form our vowels and consonants using our lips, jaw, tongue, and palate to form the sounds that are identified as speech.

Pronunciation - Proper articulation applied to a given the word is that word’s pronunciation. The pronunciation includes how the vowels and consonants are produced, as well as which syllable is emphasized.

Accent - An accent refers to the degree of prominence of the way syllables are spoken in words, as when someone from Australia says “undah,” whereas we say “under.” 

Dialect - Dialect is a variety of language where one is distinguished from others by grammar and vocabulary. In California, you might hear people say that they are going to “over there,” versus in Louisville they might see “ovaa thrrr”

Vocal Quality - The quality of the voice, its timbre (distinctive sound) and texture, affects audibility and can jeopardize the articulation.

Pitch and Inflection - Identical to musical parlance, the pitch is the “highness” or “lowness” of the voice. Inflections are variations, turns, and slides in pitch to achieve the meaning.

Regionalisms - Refers to regional differences in language...which could also impact dialect. Which ultimately could leave us all confused!

You get the point!

It takes a lot of skill to be able to write something that’s easy to read, easy to hear, and easy for many people can connect to. But it takes an equal amount of skill to speak in such a way that grabs attention, entertains, is easy on the ear and is rhythmic. This is how hip hop started or, more specifically, jazz poetry with folks in the Harlem renaissance. 

Which is more critical Page Poetry or Spoken Word

I do not believe in rules during the creative process, but I can say before I put out youtube videos of my music or dramatic performances, I had published my poetry. What I realized was written page poetry was the foundation of all my music and performance art. And in reality, it seems people accept and understand the spoken word, music easier than reading. Think about how many people read books versus watch youtube videos.  The spoken word is the icing on the cake to a page poets storytelling endeavors. 

Often when people think the spoken word, they believe Slam poetry.

Slam is the competitive version of spoken word, and requires poets to keep their poetry to timed performances, without the use of props or any other devices, and forces audience members to score the performance on a numbering scale.

I am different in that I believe art is not a competition but rather an observation and expression of a person's experience. Nevertheless, that is just my opinion, and we all have different methods to achieve our outcome. 

So, in summary, Spoken Word is vocal while page poetry is written for the page.