The growth of spoken word poetry in the country has been unprecedented in the recent years, thanks to the talented pool of poets and the support from the listening public. Its continuous evolution, however, brings about false impressions of the craft and those who take part in it. Parang fake news, mga mumsh.
We turn to Kooky Tuason, Mark Dimaisip, and Franz Pantaleon—who are all part of the spoken word poetry record, Bigkas Pilipinas: The Album—to clarify common misconceptions about the performance art. Here’s what they tell us.
Misconception 1: Spoken word poetry is a modern, artistic phenomenon.
It’s been around longer than your undying admiration kay crush na may 3-year jowa na. In fact, it’s been here as long as language. “Before we had materials for writing, we went by oral tradition. And even when we had things to write with, we would still recite with our poems,” Franz explains. The newer facet of the art form is its performative side, which Franz thinks is a generational thing. “It goes with how the times have changed and how our language calls to the mediums that we have,” he adds. Even performer styles have trends which result to a homogeneity – sort of.
Misconception 2: It all sounds the same.
There’s variety in the local scene of spoken word poetry, parang your all-time favorite pansit palabok, baks. “They are confining themselves to the things that they have fallen in love with and are afraid to be venturing out and exploring the full depth of the craft,” Franz says. Kooky encourages every poet to find their own voice. “Hindi kasi kailangang magkakapareho tayo kasi magkakaiba naman ang kwento natin,” she explains. TBH, this makes more sense than your cheating boyfie’s excuses.
Misconception 3: It’s a mere fad.
The biggest fad in the world is e-cigarette, bes, not spoken word poetry. “Higit isang dekada na akong nagi-spoken word poetry, I’m still here and we have more to show,” Kooky says. True enough, the local scene has been thriving even before the age of social media. Franz believes it all comes down to passion for the craft. “If you have a lot of ambition but no passion, or you have too much passion but little ambition, then you might not be able to contribute,” he says.
Misconception 4: It’s just all hugot.
A lot of spoken word poetry is hugot, but not the kind that we’ve come to define it today: hurt and pain from romantic love. “Hugot kasi as a term has evolved into somewhat a rant fest but I feel that it means something good, something deep-seated inside you,” Mark says. The trio also agree that the pre- and post-Gege (‘yung binansagang poster boy ng Pinoy spoken word poetry na si Juan Miguel Severo) era classification of the craft is unfair. “I think ‘yan ‘yung nakalimutan ng nanonood. They just took the dramatic spilling of honesty. Nakalimutan nila ‘yung other good things about his poems, like his rhythm,” Mark explains.
Misconception 5: Spoken word poets are depressed.
Not every spoken word poet is suffering from mental health illnesses. Same lang din kapag sobrang bait sa’yo ni crush, bes. It doesn’t mean agad na bet ka rin niya. “Depression is not a prerequisite for spoken word poetry, too, and you don’t have to suffer for your art,” Franz asserts. Mark agrees, suggesting that artists experiencing depressive episodes should consider rethinking how they do things. On a more personal note, Kooky says her journey— which includes being sexually abused, having to live in a church, and sleeping on its floors with her brother—gives her every right to be depressed. “Writing and art therapy has helped me a lot,” she says, demonstrating that the craft works the other way around. A solution and salvation, that is.