Thursday, September 9, 2010

Story Rx: Listen to Words in the Air

All my fellow writers out there: listen up. Let me amend that: All my fellow writers, parents, pediatricians, urban planners, social workers, activists, teachers, fellow human beings -- listen up!

We who love words on the page have much to learn from words in the air.

Words that dip, sway and dance from a performer's mouth. Words that set fire to the imagination. Words that explode in your heart.

Go listen to spoken word poetry, people!

Last night, I had the honor and privilege of hearing Joshua Bennett perform for the second time. A twenty two year old who has performed as part of Brave New Voices, at the Sundance Film Festival, and for President and Mrs. Obama. He is a recent UPENN graduate who spent his college years doing spoken poetry with young people in prisons, a Marshall scholar on his way to England to study the history of Black disability, an upcoming PhD candidate at Princeton in performance studies. But most importantly, he is a young man with a light like a beacon in him, a calling to reform prison systems and urban education, a calling to educate pastors about homophobic, sexist and anti-disabled language, a calling to empower young people to share their stories and thereby actively narrate their lives.

I don't think written words will suffice in communicating the power of this young man's performance poetry. And so I urge you to open your ears and hearts and listen to him perform

10 Things I Want to Stay to a Black Woman (this one had me weeping in the front row)
Tamara's Opus (the one he performed at the White House)

And for those of you interested in how performance poetry can capture the embodied experience, check out:

Brave New Voices
o Jasmine Bailey, "Sickle Cell":

o Devin Murphy, "Tourettes"
o Brittany Wilson. “Fish, Gritz & Buttermilk Biscuits.”

But hold onto your seat, because you just might fly away on the wings of these young performers' words...


  1. oh my. both beautiful, both brought tears, but esp tamara's opus. sibling stuff just kills me right now. thanks honey :)

  2. Glad you loved them, Jovi. I think he's brilliant!