Poetry Prompts: Spoken Word

spoken word

All poets want their work read aloud. But for no other form is that more important than for spoken word poetry.

It’s a theatrical style that is written to be performed.

A spoken word poem often speaks to a truth the poet knows, or else is about a topic they feel strongly about. It can be political or personal — in fact it’s often both!

Whatever the subject, these poems are expressive and powerful.

I’ve copied down some lines from “B” or “If I should have a daughter” by Sarah Kay below, but I recommend watching this video for the full effect!

“If I should have a daughter”

I want her to look at the world
Through the underside of a glass-bottom boat
To look through a microscope
At the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind
Because that’s the way my mom taught me
That there’ll be days like this
There’ll be days like this, my momma said.

Where did it come from?

Spoken word poetry can be traced back to the American Beat poets of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Beat poetry itself had a range of inspirations from jazz music to the haiku.

It was experimental, rebellious and spontaneous.

The style was picked up by punk poets like John Cooper Clarke in the 1970s, and has been evolved further by hip hop artists.

In fact, some spoken word poets have sold out tours all over Europe!

Word play and sound

There is no structure to a spoken word poem.

There are no rules about how long it has to be, how many beats should be on one line, or even whether it should rhyme.

Commonly, poets will emphasise lines by repeating or rhyming it.

And to make the poem sound good out loud, they use word play like alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia.

Your turn!

Think of something you feel passionately about — whether it’s getting in your third cup of tea before 11 a.m., or something more serious.

Start writing and let the words flow. You can go back and polish it up later.

Don’t forget to practise in front of a mirror!

For more of Abbie’s poetry prompts, click the tag below.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.