I don’t know about you, but I think the fact that some young people are embracing poetry as a means of expression is awesome. The Brave New Voices Festival encourages teenagers to get involved in poetry and gives them a place to share their works, and these three girls used that podium to make a big statement. The continuing recognition and strong responses they’ve received for their performances of their poem “Somewhere in America” goes to show how powerful poetry can be.
At the same time I worry that the poetry slam style has taught them to insert keywords for cheers and to shout every word. I think the keyword problem would always happen when given an audience, but the shouting worries me. If they didn’t have a mic, that would be different (although projecting and shouting are different, and the former is much healthier for your voice). But choosing to shout everything ignores the strength of the words alone. Like writing in all caps, shouting takes away from that strength and emphasizes I am shouting.
When I watch some of the other videos from the poetry slam, I see more and more group poems that follow this trend, some that go beyond poetry recitation into theatre, and finally, a few others that use the strengths of the poem to improve the delivery (“I Am a Man“). I see some that vary their rhythms, that use dynamics, that do not always shout their refrain.
I see hope.
I see hope that America’s youth will not only express themselves and get into poetry but also learn that the words and the rhythms and the rhymes have power. And that they do not need to be shouted.