Slam Poetry at Communitea Books

Exploring Slam Poetry: Buddy Wakefield's Impact, Spoken Word Artists, and the Power of Words in Human Connection

I’m often surprised by who and what people are and are not familiar with. And I don’t mean through the lens of arrogance or elitism, what we know and do not know is little more than a question of whether a persons’ experiences intersected with a particular idea or person or work; not knowing a thing is arbitrary, not characteristic. I have happened upon people and asked if they’re familiar with the world of slam poetry, and while many have been unfamiliar, others have responded to me as though I’ve slandered them in some way, “of course, pfft” they’ll respond, bleeding out of their ears with insult for some reason (I mean, everyone can’t be expected to know everything, and for their experiences to escort them everywhere). I have a hard time understanding why people feel like they’re supposed to know everything, and if they don’t, why they would rather blindly and desperately follow along instead of just saying, “hmm, no, sounds interesting, tell me more….”

            Buddy Wakefield is a slam poet, and he has a unique way of reflecting our general reactionary and unconscious thoughts and behaviors through poetry. He presents the human condition in a way that’s all encompassing and that can open new perspectives to the way that we think and feel. This is a characteristic of most spoken-word artists. Listening to Buddy Wakefield’s poetry at different times in my life has meant different things to me, presented itself differently, and has allowed me to explore the human experience in a way that’s between the black and white of our ingrained behaviors.

Buddy Wakefield was born in Louisiana and raised east of Houston, in Baytown, Texas. Just shy of thirty years old, and after working as an executive assistant at a biomedical firm in Washington state, Wakefield sold everything he owned, moved into his Honda Civic, and started touring poetry venues across the United States (this is something that I can, kind of, relate to). At a young age Buddy Wakefield discovered the power of words, and while touring and performing his poetry throughout the United States his style and magnetic presence quickly set him apart in the world of spoken-word.

Slam Poetry, for those who might be unfamiliar with the term, is a form of spoken-word poetry that combines the elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation performed at events called, “poetry slams,” coined from the power of the audience to praise or destroy a poem in the attendance of the performance. Buddy Wakefield won the Individual World Poetry Slam competition in 2004-05.

The Information Man,” is a poem by Wakefield about the complexities of human connection and the search for meaning in a digital age. “The Information Man” was my introduction to Buddy Wakefield, I can’t even recall when the first time I heard it was or even how Wakefield stumbled into my purview. But I memorized the poem and have since recited it a few times at open mics in different places.

Convenience Stores” paints an image of the everyday life of struggling Americans, with poignant observations and heartbreaking realities of how mental health—but the underlying foundations of mental health, not necessarily the blatant forms of mental health like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and psychosis that we might immediately, and subconsciously associate with the colloquialism, “mental health,” affect us throughout our day to day lives.

            I haven’t been consumed by the world of slam poetry, although it’s easy to let it happen, there aren’t a lot of spoken word artists that I’m as familiar with as Buddy Wakefield. I have enjoyed listening to the poems of Sarah KayGeorge the PoetEmi Mahmoud, and Blythe Baird, but for every one poet there are a thousand more waiting in the wings; people who got tired of maneuvering the bureaucracy of expression so, standing in place, they just started talking out loud, and eventually they were given a microphone. I like this world because it’s both expressive and introspective simultaneously, for example, I was doing some research for this post and I happened across a poem called “To This Day,” by Shane Koyczan.


          I’m sitting here listening to “To This Day,” and it’s amazing how a lot of the ideas that his poem is expressing sound alarmingly familiar to me, and if you have read some of my writing, and have clicked the link and watched the poem you might recognize what I mean. And this is why I appreciate spoken word, it’s the reason that I’m writing this post, there are so many ways that “we” are similar and yet we disconnect at one of various stages throughout our lives: the way an idea is presented to us, the way we experience an event, we misunderstand an intention, and the shadow of the weight of one or all of those that we carry with us. We’ve all got to get back to our art, and slam poetry/spoken word can be a way to reroute us—if we let it. Steal a few minutes of time and listen to these poems and let me know what you think—comment with your own poem.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.