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Fil-Am poet tackles spoken word poetry

Karah Jane B. Sarita

FILIPINO-AMERICAN POET, Oscar Peñaranda, talked about “The Poetry of Spoken Words” as part of the 10th Albert Faurot Lecture Series for Culture and the Arts last Feb. 28 at the Silliman University (SU) President’s House.

Peñaranda is an award-winning writer who had won the prestigious Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Award from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (2012). He is also the founder of the San Francisco chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society and helped spearhead the Filipino American Jazz Festival in San Francisco where he is both educator and activist.

Peñaranda discussed how spoken word poetry should be presented. He also pointed out that through spoken word poetry, people speak heavy social commentary: they speak to the people who are powerful so that they can begin a dialogue for change.

“It’s not the ones you hear on the radio… Rhyming is not enough to be called spoken poetry because you have to speak power,” Peñaranda stated.

Peñaranda connected spoken word poetry to rap. He emphasized that one is part of the other and they are both part of the hip-hop culture.

According to him, rap and spoken word poetry, together with breakdancing, beatboxing, and scratching are the pillars of hip-hop culture.

Peñaranda stated that spoken word poetry is not something new. He added that spoken poetry is memorized and is very personal.

“A lot of people think that spoken word is kind of new, but it’s really old. We have our own Balagtasan so we know,” Peñaranda stressed.

He presented samples of spoken word such as: a poem by Jeff Tagami, “The Bottle” by Gil Scott-Heron, ‘Fern Hill’ by Dylan Thomas, and “Caldonia” by Louis Jordan.

Moreover, he stated that in traditional poems there is a performance of words wherein images from the words appeal to the five senses and the performers are also performing.

Peñaranda also stressed that to find one’s voice, it is essential to read and listen as much as one can and to look at oneself and observe.

*with notes from inquirer.net

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