I was desperate to find a talent. Novels were my forte, but they’re only ink and pages, meant to be held between hands, sheltered, locked into silence. Not performed — at least not the ones I wrote. Yet for a local pageant, I would have 90 seconds to stand onstage and impress a panel of judges.
I was afraid the things I loved about words would collide with the the things I didn’t love about performing and I would be left under the lights, no voice in my throat.
In preparation for the stage, I dug deep into my mind — researching, contemplating. I tried to find something that could translate my intense love of literature into a performance. To my surprise, I stumbled upon the most wondrous emporium of words.
It began on YouTube: Sarah Kay, performing “If I Should Have a Daughter.” Like Alice tumbling into Wonderland, I was hooked within minutes. Spoken word appeared before me, spread out like kind fingers, knuckles strained under the weight of opportunity. Here it was, at last: a talent, a gift, a performance.
I’ve been writing since I was eight, which made my discovery all the more striking. How and why had I not heard of spoken word before? Where had it been hiding from me all this time?
Maybe it would help to explain that my writing finds roots in poetry. I began as a poet. I scribbled verses here and there — in haste. I wrote stanzas all through elementary school, homages to my mother and grandfather, verses about mermaids and roses and blackberry bushes curled around each other, twisted sentence vines. To this day, people tell me I sound “poetic” when I write, although I will debate the sentiment.
But something about distilled strains of thought, clear and pure as a fresh sheet of paper, makes my heart clench. I’ve since fallen in love with spoken word — watched it before class and at midnight and before tests and at lunch tables — hunched over videos where people brave enough to share their hearts performed.
When I sit down before a blank screen to write, I no longer feel constrained by the form or function of what I’m about to create. The knowledge of spoken word loops like Sarah Kay’s kind, humorous voice in my head — it could just be a poem, baby, or it could change the world.
Currently, I’m practicing an original spoken word piece for a pageant. As I look ahead to the future, I hope to find a group, club or outlet to connect with other spoken word poets, and learn how to hone and share my craft.
There’s a story for everyone. And for everyone, a story.