Fellow feeling and spoken word: the power to affect others for good

I have a developing passion and obsession with spoken word as in performance-based poetry (not as in just talking).  For me it’s partly listening to the rhythms and soundscapes as much as the words, the natural evolution/partner of my love of beatboxing.

This probably doesn’t make sense but give or take a microphone and sound system, the democracy of producing such powerful sound and meaning just through the human voice is really, aaargh, I don’t know…  I don’t feel qualified to critique and yaw on.  Suddenly feeling very self-conscious as a fat middle-aged suburban white woman about to be exposed as an uncultured vulgarian…

I just like it.  A lot.

Albeit spoken word is not a new art-form – going back so far as the ancient Greeks at least – it is increasingly popular with young people from minority groups as a means of expression of self and of experiences, notably LGBTQ.

I also have a developing passion and obsession with human rights and equality, and more specifically the true underlying barriers to achieving a mindful, inclusive society where people are intrinsically motivated towards fairness (lofty ideals, OK, but hell why not).

As I’ve said before, I see neurodiversity as the ‘next’ rights movement after LGBTQ, disability, preceded by race and women’s rights, although sadly one must acknowledge the ongoing ignorance and discrimination against all these groups all around us… how far have we truly come?

I believe that eventually we are going to have to rise above specific discriminations and differences and just talk about humans: the only thing we should be discussing is human rights.  Equality.

It isn’t always easy to view everyone as the same but fundamentally at the most basic level we are: one chance, one life, one “soul”.

We are the same.

Our multitude of differences layer on top – good and bad: it’s just a matter of viewpoint – and in the simplest terms, there’s nothing to discuss, there’s no need for explanation, for awareness, for acceptance…  we just are, and we are the same.

But, it’s not working like that right now.

Sharing our human experience through creativity and story-telling is, I believe, the most fundamental way to try and touch that underlying “same soul” in our fellow humans, lighting a spark of commonality that allows two individuals to experience what they share rather than how they differ, to use a term that has mostly fallen out of use: “fellow feeling”.

“I feel like you”

I was reminded of the power of this when I wrote ‘I Stand Quietly’.

The reason I shared the poem was that I believed people would, above all, hear my love, a mother’s love and identify with it, and that this would compel them to read on and reflect and share.

Some readers who wrote to me found different meanings to the one I intended, they read their own stories in the poem, but we still came together in shared understanding of fear, pain, helplessness, and above all, love… I don’t see that as a failure.

I was looking for inspiration a week ago as I had to write a presentation and I stumbled across this spoken word poem by poet Shane Koyczan: “To This Day … for the bullied and beautiful” which explores the anguish of anyone who grew up feeling different or just a little bit alone.  Wonderful.  A perfect example of the power of shared experience and spoken word.

We’re hoping to make a film of ‘I Stand Quietly’; if it achieves a fraction of what this poem has achieved I would be eternally grateful.



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