Fellow NHWNer, Wendy Thomas, recently shared a video on Facebook that came as close to literally knocking me off my feet as any video I’ve ever watched. In three-and-a-half minutes, one woman – alone on a stage, with nothing but her own words to sway me – drew me through most of the major emotions including anger, outrage, grief, and hope. I cried, I laughed, I stood up and cheered.
The artist was a woman by the name of Kate Makkai and the venue was the 2002 National Poetry Slam. The piece she performed was called “Pretty.” Prior to watching this video, I had never experienced slam poetry and was only marginally aware of this dynamic art form. Slam is a kind of “street” poetry that taps into the raw stuff of life in a way that can be shocking. Slam poets do not pull punches. There isn’t an Emily Dickenson in the lot. Slam poets go for the jugular every time – telling it like it is in words that strip away pretense and pride.
As writers, our goal is to connect with our readers. We use our words to manipulate emotions, broaden perspectives, and inspire change. To succeed, we have to bring our writing to life. Words that lie on the page like a catch of cold, dead fish aren’t going to cut it. If you want to touch your reader’s heart, your words need to plug directly into the central artery system. They need to be the right words, delivered in the right way.
If your writing needs an infusion, I recommend taking a journey into the world of slam poetry. Start with Kate’s piece and then see where it leads you. I know I was inspired to dig deeper after watching her work. I hope you are, too.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps creative entrepreneurs (artists, writers, idea people, and creative consultants) discover their “natural” marketing groove so they can build their business with passion, story, and connection. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.