Spoken word is poetry designed for the stage. Though it has a long history, YouTube has provided the opportunity for spoken word poetry to be shared with millions of people. Concrete has collected 10 of the best artists, both old and new, from across the world, who are doing especially exciting things in 2014. All can be found at the click of a button and a few punches on the keyboard.
Gibson is a North American spoken word poet and activist. Her work is a prime example of the best kind of metaphors: ‘Our mouths were fire escapes: the words coming out couldn’t care that they were naked.’ She puts spoken word next to folk music, has made six albums, and tours across the US Look for her new album Truce but also look back on some of her older work like The Madness Vase. Poems: ‘Thank Goodness,’ ‘Photograph,’ ‘Gospel Salt.’
His poem ‘To This Day’ went viral in 2013 when he explored bullying and campaigned for more to be done about it. A topic we all thought was worn dry by GCSE drama is shocked back to life with his poem. Tragedy moves seamlessly into humour for this Canadian poet and his soft words punch audiences in the gut. Poems: ‘To This Day,’ ‘The Crickets Have Arthritis,’ ‘Stop Signs.’
Tempest has just won the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry. Born in South-East London her work as a rapper blends perfectly with the UK performance poetry scene. With a new touring show Brand New Ancients Tempest is creating a thunderstorm across the UK. Poems: ‘Brand New Ancients,’ ‘Cannibal Kids,’ ‘Icarus.’
Family, gender, nationality and identity permeate her new collection Pepper Seed like strong spices in a Caribbean dish. Her performances are impeccable and there is a lilting jazz tone to her voice which makes an audience feel totally safe in her hands. She makes you gasp with joy, horror and hilarity all at the same time. Poems: ‘My Mother’s Blues,’ ‘Saltfish’ ‘Warning.’
Softly spoken, Anaxagorou slips controversy and pertinent issues into his impeccably crafted poems. A master story teller with a musicality that lifts his work to the top of UK poetry. His recently released EP uses classical music alongside spoken word to tell stories most of us would be too scared to tell. His is a voice for people who don’t have one. Poems: ‘What If I Told You?’ ‘This is not a poem,’ ‘There I Was.’
Founder of spoken word educational project known as VOICE, Kay is known by many for her TED talk ‘If I should Have a Daughter’. Though young she has years of experience, and it shows in the fluidity of her poems and her performance. Poems: ‘Brother,’ ‘If I Ever had a Daughter,’ ‘Private Parts.’
Her upbeat and tightly knit poems talk about motherhood unabashedly. She makes the audience question why we ever thought talking about breast feeding and nappies was shameful in the first place. Her work for local councils informs her poems on racism and immigration. A Cambridge based poet not hard to find on stages around the UK. Poems: ‘Embarrassed,’ ‘Touch,’ ‘Language Learning.’
Part of American poetry collective ‘The Strivers Row’ Bennett is a wonder to watch. His glowing poems seem to quiet loud rooms full of people. His tight rhyme schemes and apt metaphors show him to be an artist who has studied his craft and exhibits it regularly. He toured the UK in 2013 and hopefully will return again this year. Poems: ‘Hip Hop,’ ‘Dear Stevie,’ ‘Baleanoptera.’
Russell J Turner
Turner is a Norwich local who has years of experience in the Norwich poetry scene. His collection The Dead Start Fires and his one man show The Vodka Diaries show how a collection of hard and rough experiences can translate into incredible art. You can tell Turner is an admirer of poetry well as a practitioner of it. Dark, rich and always surprising, his one man show will be touring East Anglia in 2014. Poems: ‘The Dead Start Fires,’ ‘The Oslo Girls,’ ‘The Rusted Guns of Milan.’
Having just finished a six month residency at the National University of Singapore Cooray’s work has spread itself across continents. In 2014 she will be back in the UK. Imagery heavy and never a word out of place, her work addresses mental and emotional health in a unique and engaging way. Poems: ‘Mother Theresa,’ ‘Breath,’ ‘How a Caged Bird Sings.’
The wonderful thing about spoken word is that it is easily accessible and through the wonder of YouTube is for the most part free. The poets collected here are really just the tip of the iceberg as there is such a plethora of strong and exciting work out there.