Poetry is supposed to be spoken. I imagine a time before the internet, before television, before radio. The people there are crowded around poets, listening to their words. When I was a kid I discovered Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO. I’d watch the poets late at night, and though I didn’t understand half of them, they fascinated me.
April was National Poetry Month, and I spent the day watching some of the old clips on YouTube. I’m a bit late to the party, but oh well. Here are 14 of my favorite def poets.
1. Kent Foreman – Epiphany
No better way to explain women, and love, in 17 syllables.
2. Oscar Brown Jr. – I Apologize
Absolutely amazing. Love this guy. This is why poetry is supposed to be spoken.
3. Daniel Beaty – Knock Knock
Not going to lie. Kind of teared up a bit here. This is powerful.
4. Twin Poets – Dreams are Illegal in the Ghetto
Hilarious. Then sad. Then uplifting.
5. Taylor Mali – Totally like whatever, you know
One of my favorites. Says precisely what I’ve always thought but never been able to articulate.
6. Louis Reyes Rivera – Bullet Cry
“Did you ever try to be where you never could have been, yet somehow you had to be there.” True poetry.
7. INQ – When Hip-Hop Was Fun
8. Lemon – Shine
The sinking of the Titanic rewritten.
9. Julian Curry – Niggers Niggas & Niggaz
An interesting perspective on the word nigger.
10. Javon Johnson – Elementary
When I grow up I’m going to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. You can always dream. “I am ruler of the universe, simply because I am a writer.”
11. Kevin Coval – Family Feud
“My mother is in Arizona. My mother is Afghanistan. My mother is in Iraq. My mother is in Palestine. I love my mother.” Peace.
12. Oscar Brown Jr – Children Of Children
On here twice. That’s no accident.
13. Sarah Jones – Your Revolution
Objectification women in hip-hop.
14. muMs – Ploylessness
The craziest, most ridiculous and awesome spoken word I’ve seen.