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The story behind the words: The powerful message of spoken word poetry

Every month, Jade Currington ’19 opens the double doors to the Mokah Café, where she goes to DaVerse Lounge meetings to find a space full of students like her— passionate about their opinions and thoughts, and excited to express them to others. Notes in hand, Jade walks up to the microphone. Whether her topic is lighthearted or heavy, she uses her words to and speak to her audience.

Spoken word poetry is a word-based performance art that allows people to share their opinions on a broad range of subjects. This form of poetry has touched Greenhill through DaVerse Lounge, a spoken word performance and youth development space in Deep Ellum. Students often present their beliefs on a variety of topics, from personal experiences to controversial ideas. DaVerse Lounge houses multiple Greenhill performers, including junior Jade Curington and senior Sudeep Bhargava, who are actively involved with writing and presenting poetry.

The Lounge’s influence reaches deep into Jade’s life.

“Spoken word has led me to figure out what to do in the future, and I think I want to be a motivational speaker,” Jade said.
Spoken word has allowed students to find a community and a creative output to express their views on life. Since many students have experienced the stressful nature of school, extracurriculars, and other outside factors, DaVerse Lounge lets people like Jade and Sudeep let out internal emotions through presenting poetry.

For senior Sudeep Bhargava, spoken word poetry is all about expression.

“I really love performing and just letting all the emotion out, just going on stage and letting the words that come out to affect me. And I think the audience appreciates me a little more because they see I stay true to my writing,” Sudeep said.

As Co-President of the Slam Poetry Club, he has a deep connection with spoken word.

Sudeep said he began Spoken word his freshman year of high school after one of his close friends, Kriti Narayanan ‘16, started the Slam Poetry Club.

Spoken word has many unique characteristics that attract students like Jade and Sudeep. The poetry is read live and the listener follows along with the performer as they speak out about whatever they want.

“For me, I’ve always used it as an outlet to express my feelings comfortably, because it’s often hard to say how I feel normally, but with poetry I can express myself somewhat comfortably,” said Sudeep.

Slam Poetry Club sponsor and English Department Chair Joel Garza said an important aspect of slam is being in the same room as the poet.

“You are breathing the same air as the poet rather than reading something written a while ago, or published in some other medium or something purchased at a bookstore and brought to your home,” Mr. Garza said.

With spoken word at the DaVerse Lounge comes a sense of unity and a place to open up about opinions and ideas. All ideas are valued while presenting different forms of poetry in the Lounge. Members of The Lounge are constantly reminded that this is the main pillar of spoken word.

The Lounge’s target demographic of middle school and high school students helps strengthen its core messages of personal growth and expression. A teenager may feel differently when surrounded by their peers, rather than a group of adults.

“Through spoken word, the audience is easily able to empathize and connect with the writer,” said Mr. Garza. “There’s much less disconnect between what the poet writes and what the audience hears.”

In the future, both Jade and Sudeep want the poetry club to expand.

“This year we are trying to broaden our efforts, or reach around the school by self-publishing a Chatbook towards the end of the year, which is
going to have different poetry from selected students. Chatbooks are what poets use, it’s the written part of spoken word poetry,” said Sudeep.

While some forms of poetry are heavily practiced, spoken word is unique in that the art is designed to come “raw from the soul”. Whether the poetry touches upon light-hearted topics, or deep, emotional pieces, spoken word’s connection to the audience portrays a very unique style of poetry.

“You walk in and you know that you will not be judged and everyone is going to listen and care about what you are saying,” said Jade. “Each voice has as much truth as any other.”

Story by Kevin Liu, Leah Nutkis, Melinda Xu, Victor Le and Lane Herbert

Photo by Sudeep Bhargava

Originally published in the November 2017 print issue

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