What is Spoken Word?
The term “Spoken Word Artist” refers to and encompasses
all artists/poets working in the oral tradition. This includes
all Jazz Poets, Dub Poets, Hip Hop Poets, Sound Poetry, Slam
Poets, Storytellers and Folk Poets. Spoken Word also includes
Spoken Word poetry encompasses word, language,rhythm, sound,
music, and beat. It is written and presented in the voice
and tone of the people. It is for the people. It represents
Although many Spoken Word Artists are published in the conventional
book or printed magazine formats, much of their work extends
beyond the boundaries of the printed page. Most Spoken Word
Artists share the view that poetry must be read aloud, or
lifted off the written page. In fact, all poetry must be read
Spoken Word Artists seek new and innovative forms to present
their work, including new media. Word and sound help the artists
fi nd new meanings. That said, it is important to recognize
the historical context of Spoken Word, otherwise known as
the oral tradition of poetry. Some claim the oral tradition
originated with Homer, continued through to Shakespeare, Dadaism,
Surrealism, and into the Beats. This is true for those of
the academic persuasion, but the roots of the oral tradition
originated in a diverse variety of cultures: African culture,
Caribbean culture, North American Aboriginal culture, Islamic
culture, Celtic culture, and every culture known to humankind.
It doesn’t matter how you look at it, it is an unarguable
point- Spoken Word is the oldest form of poetry. It is no
phenomenon that poets who practice the oral tradition continue
to contemporarizethe presentation of their work to keep up
with modern movements.
At the end of the last century, Spoken Word developed a strong
voice and a dedicated audience. Spoken Word Artists speak
to the community about social issues in the language of the
people, so it remains a popularized poetic form. Unfortunately
the work of most Spoken Word Artists has fallen through the
cracks of conventional literary institutions and in particular
the academy. Because of their popularity and their need to
strive for new and interesting methods of communication, Spoken
Word Artists have been marginalized, ridiculed and held at
bay from achieving any form of recognition or distinction
for their poetry.
This genre of cultural diversity is developing at an accelerated
rate. Reflecting this transition, a Spoken Word and Storytelling
Program was initiated by The Canada Council for the Arts in
2000. This program provides funding for Spoken Word Artists
to present the word inside the context of the oral tradition.
This funding program provides funding for the Spoken Word
Artist to present their work on new media formats such as
CD, DVD, audio cassette, e-zine, and in Video formats (such
as VideoPoems or “Shorts”).
Spoken Word Poetry has given voice to itself; a voice of
astute technical variation, dimension and diversity. It is
a revolution. It is the voice of our time.
One of the fi rst things that every orator learns is that
the speaker is only as good as his or her material.