On Style and Substance in Performed Poetry: A response

“My Style married my Substance, now they’re living Harmony”

I have written poetry for many years, I hated poetry in school for one reason – how it sounded. There were so many boxes to tick for it to be supposedly qualified as a poem and when people read it aloud, there was no expression. If people are writing to express themselves, joyfully or painfully I wondered where the feeling was. Hence I loved the stylings of rap, the flow, how things fit together with a rhythm. I was never allowed to have it in the house growing up but I found ways to get a fix.

I truly understand there are many poems that have a literary edge. Poets that still prefer to be in a book than heard and there is nothing wrong at all with that. I simply believe that the message is as important as the delivery. I love to sing, I don’t do it particularly well yet simple words delivered well can have a profound impact. Consider the singer Adele and her song “Someone like you”, if her inflection on that song was nowhere to be found, I don’t believe it would be as highly rated as it is. In the last four weeks I have listened to more than I want to, from cover versions to people humming it at work. The presentation of the lyrics has made them memorable as much as the feeling behind them.

If you take away the inflection then as refreshing as that glass of water may be, your taste buds may still be asking for that juice or tea. As humans we inflect in our actions. We laugh and cry, news readers have a tone which will vary according to the nature of it. Teachers, parents, actors especially are tasked to convey the substance of what they’re presenting to us.

The substance whether farcical or sombre will always have to be there when writing yet you cannot detach one from the other. The moment you open your mouth to bring one of these babies to life, the onus is on you to make your voice heard and your piece stick. There are always going to be preferences yet for the sake of attention spans, either the message or the presentation need to connect. The greatest of those practicing any spoken art form marry the two excellently. Personally, if you’re telling me you got hit by 5 tonne truck and got proposed to by the driver – I want to hear it and feel it. There is no exclusion zone for style not matter how well researched and written your piece is. The moment you add any kind of structure to your writing, no matter how loose it is – you are styling it. The delivery does not simply apply to performance, you still have to make those words jump off the page for you and whoever else reads it.

“My style married my substance and now they livin in harmony
But any substance can be abused
Especially when the style is so seductive the substance consider leaving you”

Talib Kweli ~ Self Savior ~ Gutter Rainbows



Filed under Non Poetic Blogs

2 responses to “On Style and Substance in Performed Poetry: A response

  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.

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  2. DragonPoetikFly Poetry

    I’ve been a fan of literature since high school, 17 yrs and running. I was more of a writer than a performer. When I became an adult I started performing my Poetry live n I published a book. The cohesiveness of both was an afrodesiac for me, it strengthened my word skills. I really dig what you’re saying about the words and their real meaning to you being a big part of poetry. “The delivery carries a soulful voice from the pen, paper, and through the tongue of all literary artist.”~ DragonPoetikFly 2012

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