What is Spoken Word?
Review of "Out Loud: Speaking Volumes with Spoken Words" Workshop
By Sarah Walker
I could give you the dictionary definition, but after attending Betty Carpick’s workshop on Tuesday, October 11th I am not. It would not give the evening’s presentation enough justice. Instead, I will give you my own thoughts and if we agree great! If we do not that is fine, because sometimes we are not supposed to agree.
Spoken word is a theme, an idea and expression.
It is a thought a feeling an emotion.
It is playing with words that might not play well together.
Spoken word is a story about a girl who likes to listen to people walk and talk, while she sits in the park.
It is a story about a boy who listens to his favourite song a thousand times, he begins to speak in beats and move to the melody created by the vibrations of the music’s bass.
Spoken word is a poets love, heartbreak, anger and laughter.
Spoken word is an actor performing a piece and realizing they are an activist.
Or an activist so deeply entwined in their passion, their right, their belief that they stand in front of millions and their fear of public speaking becomes a performance. It is that powerful.
In two hours, I learned the importance of listening, feeling and understanding what I am writing or what I am writing to perform. It does not matter how many years you have creating your craft. What matters is how you choose to present yourself and how confident you are in your own presence.
That is Spoken Word. Do you hear me?
The Distracted Writer
By Cindy Morson
Finally, I sit down to write. My coffee is keeping its temperature on the electric mug warmer that I asked for last Christmas. Nothing is more irritating than drinking cold coffee while becoming lost on the computer. I have the Word document set to the preferred font and size. My chair is re-adjusted from my daughter’s height to mine. Radio is off, curtain is open for natural light, scribbled notes of ideas and research beside me, begging for literary decoration. I look like a writer.
Then distractions creep in. Did the contractor for the windows send me a quote yet? I’ll just check my Hotmail quickly. Might as well check the other email account too. But don’t go on Facebook, you’ll never get to work. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Damn it. You did it. My husband sends a text. Yes, yes, I know, but we’ll chat later. I’m writing. Gulp. Ok, logging off Facebook. I can do this.
I return to Word and, miraculously, my fingers comply with my brain and actually start typing. It’s euphoric. My face relaxes, my mind focuses on the words. Suddenly, my fingers can’t keep up to the evolving stream of consciousness. Characters come alive, shoving themselves in front of one another. Patience everyone, I’ll get to you. They sit with arms crossed, feet tapping, waiting to be heard. I smile. I love them. I’m in my happy place.
The phone rings. I usually ignore it, but I know it’s my dad and I have to talk to him. I just have to. Back to writing. Where was I? My mind takes a few minutes to finish the phone conversation and focus on the text on the screen. Ok, back in the zone. My teenage daughter enters the office/craft room. My fault for combining the two. She starts a sewing project and I remind her to try to not distract me. But she’s there, behind me, cutting, pinning, sewing, and I need to breathe, and focus.
“Mom, what’s for lunch?” my other darling daughter yells from the living room.
She’s eleven and, being the youngest, demands to be heard.
“Whatever you want,” I respond without looking up.
“What?” she yells back.
“WHATEVER YOU WANT!!! I’m trying to write here!” I yell back. Oh, yes I do.
Type, type, type. My eyebrows crease, as if creating an armour against distraction; I pause to smooth them, to take a 10 second mental break. My sewing daughter jumps at the opportunity to ask me what I think of the crop top she re-purposed out of an old t-shirt. I take a breath and remind myself that the kids are only young once and pretty soon she won’t ask my opinion about anything. I turn and sincerely compliment her work. She’s so happy, validated.
“Mom! We have nothing to eat!” the hungry child yells. I sigh, turn back to the computer, hit save, and exit. I go to the kitchen to rescue my daughter from apparent starvation.
I love writing, and I would love to dedicate my days to the art; to update my occupation status as Writer. The pros say to be a serious writer you need to write every day. Every single day. To be successful, you need to work harder and produce more work than everyone else. Maybe one day I’ll be there. Maybe I’m making excuses for not being there already. Life is busy, but is it really too busy that I can’t write something once a day? I work part time at my day job, so on paper I have the time. Do I let dust bunnies collect? Laundry pile up? The fridge to empty? The answering machine to pick up? For the kids to be ignored, their activities missed? Not exercise or go for walks with my husband? Not read? (Gasp! Anything but that!) Some days, yes. I have to do (or not do) all of these things so I can write. If I go too long without writing, a part of me dies. Overly dramatic? Maybe, but I bet writers know what I mean. It gives me as much purpose as anything else I love. But every day? Can it be done? Is it necessary? Well, my occupation status hasn’t changed, so I can see the point. I admit, I am skilled in the art of making excuses.
My eleven-year-old enters the office where I have stealthily returned to the computer. “Awww, I was going to write my book,” she laments, and sits behind me, waiting in line.
I hit save. I will edit later. Far be it for me to get in the way of an aspiring author. Besides, my chauffeur services are needed for a swimming lesson.
While the characters of our imaginations sit patiently, may our days be filled with balance, happiness, no excuses, and a written word or two.
Member Profile - Holly Haggarty
How long have you been a member of NOWW? Since 1997-98 – Deborah DeBakker invited me to join and give a workshop at Confederation College. Jean E Penziwol was my student there, and protégée, let us say.
What do you normally write? I write it all! Lately my focus is poetry and poetic inquiry (a form of academic scholarship).
And who are some of your favourite authors? Here are some who come to mind: Margaret Mahy, Roald Dahl, Aristotle, Thomas Merton, Isabel Allende, Kasuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Jane Urquhart, Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Wilkinson, Molly Peacock, Jan Zwicky, Yann Martel, and André Alexis. The last two came up out of my book club, which has always encouraged me to keep up with literary culture. Otherwise, I follow an idiosyncratic route, linking from books I’ve already read and liked, or else from an idea that comes to mind. For example, one summer I read nothing but dystopias. And I must also shout out to our regional writers; they are fam-jam!
Let’s get to know you a bit better. Tell us a bit about yourself! Although I started my arts career teaching and writing for children, my interest in BIG IDEAS has led me into poetic discourse. All the same, small ideas make for good poetry, too. Poetry is really just a way of understanding life. When I say poetry, I don’t distinguish it greatly from story, which is just a synonym for how humans live life,
What’s your writing like? For some time now, I have been absorbed by philosophical ideas such as: How is art a way of knowing? How does a metaphysics (personal and collective beliefs about reality and being) contribute to a grammar of art? These questions might seem abstract and abstruse, but they are ultimately what is behind poetics, the theory and craft of literature.
And where does your inspiration come from or who inspires your writing? In terms of theories of art, I have been following the ideas of Umberto Eco, Northrop Fry, Elliot Eisner, Suzanne Langer, Giles Deleuze, Paul Ricoeur, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Richard Kearney and David Abram. An eclectic crew. One of them said this: “Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot say or do anything without its acquiring a name in history.”
Can we see you at any upcoming NOWW events? I will be attending the poetry panel in October and the writing workshop in November.
Where can we learn more about you and your writing? I have poetry published in a number or regional anthologies. I have two children’s novels, Dream Dad and Summer Dragons with Dundurn Press. My biggest social media presence is on Facebook, where I sometimes post poetry for my five friends.
And to end things off, tell us something surprising about yourself! I can stand on my head. I still have all my own teeth. Iay ikelay otay eakspay inay igpay atinlay.
If you're a NOWW member and would like to be featured in a
Member Profile, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Beginning of the Long Dash
By Betty Carpick
Much of what I know about spoken word performance began in a small nickel-mining town in Northern Manitoba. In this sub-arctic climate isolated by distance and geography, we didn’t have television until I was twelve years old. The sole radio station, CBC, broadcast in English about a dozen hours a day. The radio brought current affairs, dramas, concerts and hockey games. The stream of serious performance, serious talk and serious music honed my listening skills and an appreciation for compelling material and powerful delivery.
We had a lot of books in our house. “The Story of a Little White Teddy Bear Who Didn’t Want to Go to Bed” by Dorothy Sherrill was in one of the ten volumes of “The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls”. No matter how many times my dad read me the tale of the little bear who, instead of going to bed as he was told went out into the snowy night and got lost, I would cry. A good story inspires an imaginative experience that allows you to walk through the writer’s thoughts and emotions when they wrote the story. My dad didn’t just read the story, he told it.
Storytelling was a part of our household. When I heard recollections, knowledge and ideas told in a lively and detailed way, I felt inspired, protected and connected to my family and our histories. The powerful fleeting experiences of well-told storytelling are an act of intimacy and generosity with their sounds, images, actions and feelings.
As a kid, I loved to memorize poems, rhymes, riddles and stories. Edward Lear, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti: I recited them to my family along with my original material. Sometimes, I dressed up. Writing, performance and stagecraft had a certain allure, which, because I was very shy, the performance part took a long time and lots of practice before I felt comfortable to show my vulnerability.
It’s important to have confidence in your poem, story, or monologue. As William Strunk Jr. said, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” In spoken word, strive for vigorous writing where every word carries weight. Read your writing out loud. Read it out loud again. Edit. Read out loud. Repeat.
Spoken word is a way of reinforcing writing and meaning. Connecting to listeners with the aesthetics of language, word play, intonation and voice inflection is a way to take a written subject and give it attitude. Moving from the page to the stage takes deliberate practice of conscious stage presence with a good dose of personal flavour. When you’re in the spotlight, eye contact, projection, enunciation, facial expression and gesture are capitalized with confidence. Find your inner strengths and fearlessness. Spoken word is a tightrope performance. You can never be too prepared. I’ve fallen off the tightrope more than once.
Be Bold, or Italic, Never Regular
Member Profile - Tessa Hargreaves
Here at NOWW, we think it's time to get to know each other just a little better!
Each year we're growing and growing! Our membership is well over 100 members
and it can be hard to know who's who! Have you ever wondered who that speaker
was at a recent Reading event? Or were curious about who our members actually are?
Well, Welcome to Member Profiles! Let's get to know each other!
First up! Let's meet Tessa who recently wowed us at the
September Reading at Waverly Library!
How long have you been a member of NOWW? For about one month, but I attended some events before I became a member.
What do you normally write? I write mainly poetry, but would love to one day write a YA and/or Fantasy novel.
And what’s your favourite book? My favorite book is also my guilty pleasure: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Let’s get to know you a bit better. Tell us a bit about yourself!
I decided I wanted to become a writer around grade 6 or 7. This is when I started writing Newsies fan fiction and planning novels about a group of high school students who very much so resembled the Backstreet Boys. I wanted to be the next S.E. Hinton. I still have all these stories I wrote. I was definitely not the next S.E.Hinton. I studied English in University and that was when I started to write a lot more poetry. It was a bit of instant gratification between assignments. Poetry seemed to come more naturally to me than other forms of writing and I would study it whenever I got the chance. Now, three kids later, I still love poetry and plan on one day writing a great Canadian novel … though the Backstreet Boys probably won’t be in it.
What’s your writing like?
When I had my twins, seven years ago, my life became too cluttered and my mind too exhausted to write. It’s only been within the past year that I have started to make an effort to write again. Now I am trying to find my voice and refine my writing skills. I am posting small poems on Instagram. Growing up I was embarrassed of my desire to write and self-conscious of my ability, so putting my stuff out there for the world to see is a big deal. I tend to write a lot about writing. For me, writing is always personal, even if the stuff I am writing is not. I am working on a book of poetry that I think I am going to call “Her.” The title is significant because I had trouble letting go and getting in a headspace where I could be completely free and vulnerable with my words. It was only when I stopped writing in the first person and started writing in the third person that I was able to give myself enough distance from my poetry to put all of “me” into it.
And what are some of your favourite things and inspirations?
I grew up loving Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and anything by Jane Austen. I also love YA fiction; the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, Harry Potter (unsurprisingly) and The Hunger Games are my favourites. I don’t like my books too dark or too sad, but I love my poetry dark and sad. I guess I can only take it in small doses! I love poetry from Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath, Mya Angelou and Langston Hughes. I like poetry that is political; that has something to say. I tend to be turned off by stuff that is too pastoral or too flowery, so while there are moments in poets such as Whitman and Frost that I love, there are also moments that I glaze through it.
Can we see you at any upcoming NOWW events? I am excited to go to the Readings where I get to perform my poetry! I plan on attending all the NOWW events, but will probably only make it to about half.
Where can we learn more about you and your writing? I post some of my poetry on Instagram under Tessa.leee and on Facebook under my actual name.
And to end things off, tell us something surprising about yourself! I am self-conscious about my spelling and grammar and will sometimes type random letter combination into my phone or computer to make sure my spell checker is still working.
If you would like to be featured in a member profile, send an email to email@example.com or find Jodene Wylie at the next NOWW event.
Welcome to our NOWW Blog, made up of a collection of stories, reviews and articles written by our NOWW Members.