PLAYLIST: Spoken Word Poem Videos for Educators

(I’m in the middle of overhauling this page; I’ll leave it up while that work continues. Also, be sure to check out my new spoken word resource hub!)

This page used to be called “A Beginner’s Guide to Spoken Word and Slam Poetry.” It can still work for that purpose, but what it is now is also a little more specific: a big list of poems and resources that have been useful to me in education settings, whether that be a classroom poetry unit, or a social justice training. If you’re looking for something a bit more broad, I’ll have another page up soon.

I have tried to keep this page updated since 2015 or so, but it’s obviously a challenge to stay current when new work is being released all the time. So my thought is to just try my best to share a selection of videos here that have been useful to me as a facilitator, in the hopes that they can both be useful to you, and open up doors to explore work that isn’t listed here. A few notes:

This is not a list of the “best” spoken word poems; just ones that have been useful to me in the specific context of social justice education and facilitating dialogue on a range of issues. I’ve found (and my Masters studies centered on the idea) that spoken word poems can be powerful entry points for dialogue. They can bring ideas down to earth, tell stories, and open up all kinds of room for critical thinking and community-building.

The videos here are categorized by topic for ease of use, but categorization is tricky. Many poems could fit under multiple headings, and poems about one topic can obviously be relevant to other topics too.

This is a starting point, not anywhere near an exhaustive list. I’ve tried to focus on pieces with high-quality audio and video, but beyond that, the list here includes the famous and not-so-famous, elders and youth, and practitioners demonstrating multiple styles and approaches to spoken word. I would absolutely encourage people to build their own lists too!

My hope is that this can be an imperfect starting point for further research. I encourage educators to watch and re-watch poems that they are considering for use, be intentional about what “work” you want those poems to do for your particular audience, and continue adding to this list from your own research, from other resources, and from student recommendations.

EXISTING RESOURCES AND PLAYLISTS

Before we get into the various lists, a few more general links and resources:

  • Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Spoken Word and Slam Poetry: This is the first chapter of my debut book, and it attempts to share some foundational information and dispel some common myths and stereotypes.
  • Big List of Resources for Aspiring/Emerging Spoken Word Poets: While the page you’re on now is more for educators and facilitators, this link is what I share with people who are interesting in getting into spoken word as a poet themselves.
  • Channels that Regularly Post Spoken Word Videos and/or Have Archives to Browse:
  • A Playlist of Playlists:
    • 30 Poems I’ve Used in Classrooms here
    • Spoken word on disrupting white supremacy here
    • Poems, links, and resources RE: #MeToo, consent, and rape culture here
    • Poems, links, and resources RE: the connections between masculinity and violence here
    • An analysis project: A More In-Depth Look at a Few Poems/Videos here
    • Button Poetry’s playlist of “classroom-friendly poems” here
    • Bernard Ferguson’s twitter thread of poems on climate justice here
    • IndieFeed Performance Poetry (a long-running archive of spoken word audio) here
    • Disabled and d/Deaf Poets Anthology, Curated by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha here
    • The #TeachLivingPoets website here
    • All of my own spoken word videos here

A BUNCH OF POEMS

An Introduction: Ten Personal Favorites
Before we get to the other lists, here are ten poems that I feel like represent what makes spoken word special, especially in the context of how stories and images can be entry points into deeper conversations about issues. If I were going to share any poems with someone who knew nothing about spoken word, or had a bunch of misconceptions about it, I’d probably draw from this list.
• Ariana Brown: Ode to Thrift Stores
• Danez Smith: Alternate Heaven for Black Boys
• Suheir Hammad: First Writing Since
• Sierra DeMulder: Paper Dolls
• Rudy Francisco: The Heart and the Fist
• Patricia Smith: Skinhead
• Kevin Yang: Come Home
• Robbie Q. Telfer: Clowns
• William Nu’utupu Giles: Zombies (Made in America)
• Sonya Renee Taylor: The Body Is Not an Apology

On Feminism, Masculinity, and Gender
• Melissa Lozada-Oliva: Like Totally Whatever
• Rudy Francisco: The Heart and the Fist
• FreeQuency: Masculinity So Fragile
• Sam Sax – After My Boyfriend’s Drag Show
• Donte Collins: Genderlect
• Blythe Baird: Pocket-Sized Feminism
• Lily Myers: Shrinking Women
• FreeQuency: The Princess Poem
• Carlos Andrés Gómez: How to Fight
• Blythe Baird: Girl Code 101
• Olivia Gatwood: Manic Pixie Dream Girl
• Eric Mata: Anatomy of a Hit
• Dominique Christina: The Period Poem
• Kait Rokowski: How to Cure a Feminist
• Lauren Zuniga: To the Oklahoma Lawmakers
• Guante: Handshakes
• Guante: Ten Responses to the Phrase “Man Up”
• Guante: The Art of Taking the L

On Rape Culture, Consent, and Healthy Sexuality
• Sierra DeMulder: Paper Dolls
• Dylan Garity: Friend Zone
• Alyesha Wise: The Interview
• Ollie Schminkey: Two Twin Beds
• Kevin Kantor: People You May Know
• Carrie Rudzinski: In America
• Desireé Dallagiacomo and FreeQuency: American Rape Culture
• Terisa Siagatonu and Rudy Francisco: Sons
• Britteney Conner: Consent
• Anna Binkovitz: Asking For It
• Imani Cezanne: Word Choice
• Caroline Harvey: Consent
• Guante: Action
• Guante: Consent at 10,000 Feet
• Playlist: Poems from #YesYesYes: An Evening of Poems of Consent and Healthy Sexuality
• Also, check out Rachel McKibbens’ “The Outlast Project” here.

On Anti-Blackness, African-American History, and #BlackLivesMatter
• Clint Smith III: History Reconsidered
• Marvin Hodges, Em Allison, and Saidu Tejan-Thomas: Da Rules
• Anthony McPherson: All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition
• Crystal Valentine: Black Privilege
• Steven Willis: Ebonics 101
• Janae Johnson: Black Girl Magic
• Javon Johnson: cuz he’s black
• Aja Monet: Word Warriors #SayHerName
• Joseph Capehart: The Hill
• Danez Smith: Dinosaurs in the Hood

On Whiteness, White Privilege, and White Supremacy
• Patricia Smith: Skinhead
• Jared Paul: 5 Times My Skin Color Did Not Kill Me
• Raven McGill: Meanwhile, in Post-Racist America
• Danez Smith: Dear White America
• Andrea Gibson: A Letter to White Queers, A Letter to Myself
• Marshall Gillson: For My White Coworkers
• Aamer Rahman: Reverse Racism
• Guante: How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist
• Guante: Quicksand

On Race, Racism, Xenophobia, and Racial Justice
• Suheir Hammad: First Writing Since
• Carlos Andrés Gómez – “Where are You Really From?”
• Carlos Andrés Gómez – 12 Reasons to Abolish C.B.P & I.C.E
• Bao Phi: Broken/English
• Kevin Yang: Come Home
• Kevin Yang: Sam I Am
• Denice Frohman: Accents
• Adriana Ramirez: Wild Stallion (Hair)
• Joseph Capehart: Color Blind
• Mary McDonough: Native Tongue
• Hieu Minh Nguyen: Buffet Etiquette
• Franny Choi: All Look Same
• Ed Bok Lee: American Woods
• Alex Dang: What Kind of Asian Are You?
• Tatiana Ormaza and Juliana Hu Pegues: Under the Table
• Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo, and G. Yamazawa: Unforgettable
• Giles Li: First Draft of Yao Ming’s Retirement Speech
• Melissa Lozada-Oliva: My Spanish
• Bao Phi: Refuge Requiem
• Terisa Siagatonu: AAPIs Rising
• Guante: Dust
• Playlist: Craig Santos Perez put together this big list of poems by Pacific Islanders!
• Playlist: Poems by Proletariat Bronze
• Playlist: Equilibrium Supershow featuring multiple artists including Patricia Smith

On Homophobia, Transphobia and the Struggle for LGBTQ Liberation
• Lauren Zuniga: World’s Tallest Hill
• Cam Awkward-Rich: Obligatory
• Hieu Minh Nguyen: Monica West Is Moving to Omaha, Nebraska
• Tish Jones: March for Me
• Ethan Smith: A Letter to the Girl I Used to Be
• Denice Frohman: Dear Straight People
• Hieu Minh Nguyen: Stubborn Inheritance
• Niko Martell: Guns
• Janani of Dark Matter: trans/national
• Floyd VB: I Have a Body
• Joanna Hoffman: Pride
• Yesha Townsend: Physiology of a Sound
• Joanna Hoffman and Daniel “Fritz” Silber-Baker: Coming Out

Poems that Fit in Multiple Categories (many do, but especially these)
• Hieu Minh Nguyen: Southbound
• Kai Davis: Ain’t I a Woman
• Carvens Lissaint and Cynthia Ceez Keteku: Switch
• Keno Evol: More Recent Memories
• Franny Choi: Pork Fried Rice
• Josh Healey: Queer Intifada
• Jamila Woods: Pigeon Man
• Chrysanthemum Tran: Cognates
• Amaris Diaz: Dear Privilege
• Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley: Lost Voices
• Danez Smith: Genesissy
• Sam Sax: After My Boyfriend’s Drag Show

On Mental Health, Body Image, Disability, etc.
• Homeless Ryan K: For Joseph
• Adrienne Novy: Flotation Device
• Sabrina Benaim: Explaining My Depression to My Mother
• Blythe Baird: When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny
• Neil Hilborn: The Future
• Sonya Renee: The Body is Not an Apology
• Kevin Yang: How to Love Your Introvert
• Robbie Q. Telfer: Clowns
• Arati Warrier: Alive
• Kait Rokowski: A Good Day
• Disabled and d/Deaf Poets Anthology, Curated by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha here

On Education and Educational Institutions
• Tish Jones: The Poet Talks of Freedom
• Javon Johnson: Debt
• Dylan Garity: Rigged Game
• Raise Up – Terisa Siagatonu
• Alok Vaid-Menon of Dark Matter: Breakup Letter to Stanford University
• Carvens Lissaint: Put the Financial Aid in the Bag
• Terisa Siagatonu: Ethnic Studies
• Tish Jones: Tracks
• Alok Vaid-Menon of Dark Matter: Gender Studies
• Clint Smith: Aristotle
• Kevin Burke: Day Two
• Guante: Starfish
• Guante: Level Up (My Autobiography as a Learner)
• Guante: Poem for the First Day of the Poetry Unit in Language Arts Class

On Class, Work, and Activism/Organizing
• Ariana Brown: Ode to Thrift Stores
• Jared Paul: When I Say That I Came Up Poor
• Marge Piercy: The Low Road (as read by Staceyann Chinn)
• Blair: My Time at Chrysler
• Karen Finneyfrock: Newer Colossus
• 2009 Denver BNV Team: Group Piece
• Guante: The Family Business
• Guante: Cartpushers (When They Look Right Through You)
• Guante: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Faith
• Guante: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Magic

BONUS LIST: A Few More Personal Favorites (some already listed, others not)
• Marge Piercy: The Low Road (as read by Staceyann Chinn)
• Jamaal May: Sky Now Black with Birds
• Marc Bamuthi Joseph: For Pop
• Khary Jackson: Carolina
• Michael Lee: Pass On
• B.Dolan: Who Killed Russell Jones?
• Andrea Gibson: Letter to a Playground Bully
• Laura Brown-Lavoie: Drone Operator
• Khary “6 is 9” Jackson: Leave
• Aziza Barnes: Hypnophobia
• Donte Collins: For My Nieces Over North