This guest post comes courtesy of an up-and-coming spoken word superstar Alexis Marie. Alexis writes about discovering the power of repetition at a young age, and embracing her talents as a spoken word poet while being mentored indirectly by the power and the strength of Dr. Martin Luther King’s oratory legacy. Spoken word poetry is the bridge between word and music. It is a powerful thing to experience a spoken word performance. It is music, it is poetry. It is word in motion. Spoken word performances reveal to us the magic of music in its ability to move, to inspire, to incite change, and to create lasting and powerful ideas. Enjoy the post. I know I did.
-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder
If someone were to ask my mother when I began writing poetry, at some point in her answering of the question she would eventually climb into the attic and unearth a thin, Crayola-covered book. The title, “Poems, Poems, Poems”, is smeared across the face of the hard cover in my eight-year-old hand writing. That collection of poems is my earliest memory of wanting to become a writer; meaning—keeping in mind that I believe that writers are born, not made—I wanted to cultivate my talents and pursue my passion for writing in a way that I would one day be able to use my art to support myself.
As a young child I understood the power of repetition as a literary device: so much so that each poem, as well as the title of the collection itself, continually reflected that knowledge: one poem titled “Teardops” reads, “Teardrops, teardrops, teardrops, falling, falling from my eyes. // Teardrops, teardrops, teardrops, they don’t care if I cry…”
Although my use of repetition is certainly laughable, looking back, I believe that I was unknowingly tapping into and harnessing the power of a rich tradition rooted in the art of oration. This oratory spirit continued to manifest itself in me and at the age of thirteen I began writing spoken word poetry. Spoken word is an art form which combines the literary aspects of written poetry and the theatrical aspects of the performing arts; it takes poetry off of the page and places it onto the stage. Two of the main facets of spoken word artistry are repetition and recitation.
As a spoken word artist one must continually recite their work until it becomes learned to the body. Only through repetition can one begin living the words that are written, eventually embodying and becoming the poem itself. This, I believe, is the most important distinguishing feature between poetry which is written for and exists on the page, and poetry which is written to be spoken and exists on the stage.
Expressing myself through spoken word has been one of the most empowering experiences of my entire life. It has afforded me the opportunity to experience human connection in a multitude of ways. Through my art I have assumed the great responsibility of writing, not only for my own cathartic release, but in the spirit of human connection, learning and change. There is truly something to be said about the feeling of opening yourself up to a room full of strangers, telling them your story, sharing a moment, being joined in feeling, being inspired, and sharing your love and light with the world. There is even more to be said about daring to speak out, and having your words be embraced and internalized by people who are inspired to the point that they are called to action.
With this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was reminded of the power of the word and all of its wonders. When I think of Dr. King, I think of poetry and its ability to facilitate progress and healing. In many ways, his legacy is a mentor to my work. Every time my performances have ever brought someone to tears I have been reminded of the ability of words to translate into movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest examples of this. Dr. King’s gift of tongue, the poetry in his politics, made him a beacon of light that many were drawn to follow. His words persist even in the absence of his body and live on in those who have been fortunate enough to hear them. Dr. King used words as a vehicle for movement and change; every day I aspire to do the same.
Alexis Marie is a 19 year old Brooklyn native with a passion for social justice and change. Actress, poet, writer, spoken word artist, creator and community activist, Alexis is young in age but mature in her craft and passion for performance art. Along with having been a member of Urban Word NYC’s Youth Leadership Board (Word Wide), she was also a member of the 2008 Urban Word NYC Teen Poetry Slam Team that took second place at the national competition in Washington, D.C and won The Green Mic sponsored by Robert Redford—the prize for which she was able to travel to Utah to perform at the Sundance Film Festival. Alexis Marie also took second place at the NY Knicks Poetry Slam. In 2008 she wrote and performed her first one-woman show, Diary of a Young Black Girl, at Dance Theater Workshop. Alexis Marie has opened for artists such as Wyclef Jean, Mos Def and Goapele, to name a few. Alexis Marie was featured in the HBO documentary “Brave New Voices” as well as the MSG Documentary ” Knicks Poetry Slam.” She has performed on many stages including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Apollo, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Madison Square Garden, The Hammerstein, The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln theater and many more. Alexis aspires to be a English professor and novelist, ultimately sharing her gift of word with the world.