Slam poetry is often generated from a place of core feeling. Not always, of course, but much of the compelling performance and slam poetry to be found online and at local poetry slams seems to originate deep in the speaker’s heart.
Because the topics are so close to the speakers, we often hear pieces about bullying, racism, and abuse and discrimination. Provocative subjects, and powerful tools to hear about, process, and express issues of social justice.
I have just discovered Zaccheus Jackson. He is a Blackfoot poet currently living in Vancouver. He speaks about poverty and addiction, and the struggles of our society coming to terms with the history we share with first nations peoples. His figurative language is wonderful (warning: he does use profanity).
On the subject of North American history, Alex Deng has piece titled “What kind of Asian are you?” which has been quite popular lately. He’s from Portland, OR, but his voice resonates, I think, in BC.
When looking for slam poetry to play for you students always preview! This is obvious to us teachers, but profanity seems to come hand-in-hand with difficult and provocative topics and more than once I have become excited about a piece to share with my students only to find that the last two minutes’ word choice push it beyond what I feel comfortable sharing with 6s and 7s.
I still love this form and these poets will continue to move me to tears regularly.