I think Peggy Chinn (1995: xvii) delightfully encapsulates the power of the spoken word exchange...
"The spoken word, while seeming to disappear once the words are spoken, endures within the hearts and minds of listeners and speakers. Once spoken, it cannot be destroyed unless every person who has heard those words is destroyed".
Speaking can also be an interaction, as the speaker and the listener attend to the responses of one another.
The act of speaking is an emergence, a creation and a form that gives rise to new acts, new thought and new forms even as the speech occurs.
"The act of listening - hearing another's words gain expression - facilitates a co-creation and allows a fine tuning of ideas that combines each person's perception as words are shared"
(Chinn, 1995: xvii)
Alix Olson: Spoken Word Artist
A great contemporary poet and activist that comes to mind is American Alix Olson (pictured). She amazingly traverses activism, poetry, and spoken word performance in a truly profound earth moving way. In her own words;
"And then I think at some point when I really became actualized in my political self I realized I should be using my training and my background and my-whatever talent there was-to further some political good, or to further social justice. And so I switched from being an actress to being a political performer"
(Lo, personal communication: 2004)
Alix uses her brilliant work to contest, express her ideas, and highlight the problems with capitalism, consumerism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, misogyny, and patriarchy. Often described as a 'word warrior', I would describe her in the same light. She is an activist who is not afraid to use her body and tones when she performs. Her passionate, zesty, moving performances and her home-made political t-shirts (just about one for every day of the year) leave the audience roaring in approval. Alix Olson has the ability to use her anger in a positive, creative and transformative way. A style of anger that is not hurtful to my ears and inspiring to my heart.
Of her live performances, The Progressive Magazine (2005: online) calls Alix "an electrifying performer who seduces the audience with wit and energy, spinning tales of life on the road between her fiery poems. A sharpshooter with theatrical flair, Olson oozes both love and rage."
Because Alix confronts the status quo she can get a lot of negative labeling by mainstream media in an attempt to deflate her soulful power. However, mainstream efforts to shoot her down have had no effect on this amazing woman's passionate endeavor to pave a path free of oppression, discrimination, capitalism and homophobia. Go girl!