Ollie O’Neill discusses some of her favourite spoken word artists and recommends videos of them performing their work. Ollie was a 2013 winner of the Poetry Society’s spoken word competition SLAMbassadors, which is open for entries now!
A lot of people (like me) discover spoken word and poetry through YouTube, which, as great as it can be, often paints the spoken word scene as only existing in America – which isn’t the case! Toby Thompson is just one example of the incredible poetic talent Britain has to offer. Raw, emotional and an exceptional lyricist, Toby Thompson is everything good spoken word should be. I recommend ‘Tomorrow’:
All good poetry should be honest and in that respect Jeanann Verlee’s poetry is probably some of the best. Jeanann Verlee was among the first poets I ever listened to and I still find myself going back to her work today. I am constantly in awe of the way that she manages to tackle such serious topics – abuse, womanhood, adolescence, heartbreak – in such an unapologetic and outright manner. Jeanann Verlee’s poetry is not only honest, but beautiful too, and I think her poetry often gives a voice to many people who don’t have one. I recommend ‘The Session’:
In the same way it can be easy to think that spoken word poetry is an American thing, it’s just as easy to think that it’s a male thing too – don’t be fooled! There are tonnes of amazing women and girls out there smashing the literature scene and the patriarchy simultaneously. Megan Beech is a fiery, feisty wordsmith who rhymes loudly and proudly about politics and feminism and does a damn good job of it too. I recommend ‘Behind every great Christmas there’s mum’ and ‘When I grow up I want to be Mary Beard’:
Alysia Harris can paint masterpieces with her words, and I love how completely and emotionally involved she becomes in all of her performances. Like I said before, poets that are honest and give themselves away with their work are often the most enjoyable and Alysia Harris genuinely connects with the audience with every word she speaks. I recommend ‘Cab Rides and the Morning After’ and ‘When I Look at You Without Speaking I’m Drawing a Map’:
Queen of the extended metaphor and making pretty much everybody who sees her live cry at least once. Covering pretty much everything, from sexuality and feminism to mental health, Andrea Gibson’s poetry is consistently and effortlessly moving. Her words are powerful and her performances are always electric; Andrea Gibson has listeners hooked from the very first word. I recommend ‘I sing the body electric especially when my power’s out’ and ‘The madness vase’: