Poetic Personas: Self & Society in Spoken Word Performance Culture




Kaya, Naliyah

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This thesis examines recurring themes in spoken word performance poetry, artists’ displays and narratives of self (public selves), and their descriptions of society. Specifically the research seeks to answer the following questions: What themes emerge overall in spoken word performance poetry? How often do artists make self the topic in poems? What types of public selves are exhibited or described by performers and which social problems/topics are these selves connected to? Data, with the exception of one open mic that took place in New York, were collected in the Washington Metropolitan Area during 2009 using the following methods: seven participant observations of open mics, three participant observations of two professional spoken word artists, two in-depth interviews and two diary entries. Criteria for inclusion in the study was based on the age of individuals, the requirements included being 18 years of age or older and participation in the spoken word community as performers at public events.



Spoken word, Social activism, Slam poetry, Self, Performance culture, Identity