Excerpt from the book:

Spoken Words-knopf-660.jpg


I may receive an affiliate commission from purchases made through this article.

of “Spoken Language: Cultural History” (Knopf), Joshua Bennett reviews the development of this vibrant form of poetry, encompassing diverse voices in poetry books, slam conventions, and social media influences.

Read the excerpt below.

“Spoken Word: A Cultural History” by Joshua Bennett (hardcover)

do you prefer to listen? Audible currently has a 30-day free trial.

It was the spring semester of 2009, and I was alone in my dorm room, going through and trying to connect to my class notes for a movie about Spike Lee. Malcolm X and Mo Better Blues In a way that feels completely original.Blue & Exiles under heaven It played as loud as my second-generation MacBook would allow. I am nearing the end of my junior year at the University of Pennsylvania with a new dual major in English and African Studies. I lived in WEB Du Bois College House. A dormitory on the edge of Penn University’s campus, named after a philosopher, sociologist, novelist, and poet. In 1896, Du Bois himself was going through a really miserable period as a university faculty member, and while at the University of Pennsylvania he was not allowed to have an office or teach students. However, the dormitory was a firm reflection of human life on Earth. What you might want to see on a university campus: Students from all over the world, primarily black and brown students

was in this be unique In a tumultuous environment surrounded by charismatic boasts of hip-hop and dancehall, steel booms of soca and compa, hallways full of laughter and conversation, looking up from a note, a missed call from a California area code there was. Who was leaving voicemail her message? I turned off the music and listened to the phone. The voice on the other end belonged to James Kass, founder and executive director of the non-profit poetry group Youth Speaks. Yes, James asked if I would be interested in reciting one of my poems at the White House.

I still remember looking at the phone, then at the ceiling, then at the desk across from my twin beds. Covered with textbooks and printed notes. For a while I just sat there and froze. I answered James’ phone and after the shortest small talk of my life (“Hi James, I’m Josh. I got your message. What exactly is going on?” ), we arrived at the following problem. voicemail. James told me that if I was interested, I would have the opportunity to recite my original work in his room in the East, along with various literary and dramatic personalities. He wasn’t allowed to share any other information at that point (which was fine with me, given how strong the opening pitch was) and was instructed to stay by the phone. A few minutes later I got a call from Stan Lathan and he explained all the details.

At this point, I had only known Stan personally for a little over a year, but had been familiar with his work since my childhood spent watching it with family and friends.Over the course of his career, he accumulated directing and producing credits def comedy jam, deaf poetry, sister sisterand martin Along with many other black American television touchstones. brave new voice, featuring poetry slam teams from across the country on their way to the international youth slam competition of the same name. When I was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, I earned a spot as part of his Philadelphia team that won his 2007 Brave New Voices title. College students from schools in the Philadelphia area and her teens around the city got together and had a variety of styles, from lyrics to lyrics. A verse from a page to a verse that evokes the hip-hop style rhythms that raised us. In 2008, he was due to return to BNV in hopes of a repeat performance. A few weeks before our trip, we learned that the entire convention and the journey leading up to it would be filmed by HBO. Our team was one of his five to be featured in an upcoming documentary. Cameras followed us everywhere for the better part of three months. Each of our campuses and even the neighborhoods where we grew up. Cameras documented weekly practices and fundraisers on the streets of West Philadelphia. At the intersection of 40th and Walnut, right in front of the cinema, where he took turns performing poetry, he left his red New Era hat upside down on the pavement to collect cash donations from passersby.

later brave new voice After the documentary aired, Stan helped me create all sorts of opportunities to share my work with the world. He invited me to perform at the 2009 NAACP Image Awards. Now he invited me to his DC. I had no friends, no teammates. It was just me and Mike and his one of his 100 poems that I scribbled in various black and white notebooks over the years. According to Stan, regarding the event in question, An Evening of Poetry, Music and Storytelling, I was to recite a new original piece, a two-minute poem to be exact, on the theme of communication. The audience includes President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I thanked him for the opportunity and hung up.

After the call, I spent the next ten minutes running around the entire Dubois College House instead of my dorm room. It took me a day or two, but I finally settled on a poem to read. “Tamara’s Opus”, an ode to her sister. The theme of the poem was his relationship with Tamara, who is deaf, and thus with the American Sign Language he had learned the hard way as a child. I knew from that stage there was no other poem I could share given the theme and the stakes of the moment.If I had an audience with the president, even if it was just for two minutes, this was the message I wanted to leave him.

Excerpt from “Spoken Word: A Cultural History” by Joshua Bennett, copyright 2023 by Joshua Bennett. Published by Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. all rights reserved.

Get the book here:

“Spoken Word: A Cultural History” by Joshua Bennett (hardcover)

buy locally from indiebound

For more information:


What do you think?

Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

Leave a Reply

From teacher to elected official: How Brandon Johnson’s organizing roots set the stage for mayoral run

Excerpt from the book: