While I was in college, Slam Poetry intrigued me. Some friends and I formed a Slam Team and we would go to different venues and ‘body’ the competition. WE WERE ILL. A select group of versatile marksmen and women equipped with different talents, gifts, skillsets, and ANYBODY COULD GET IT. We went to venues in New York, New Jersey, and Cali… It was OUR thing. It gave us life…it was our RITES. It was how we cleanse our torment and celebrated our triumph…IT WAS EVERYTHING. We embodied poetry in our everyday lives and would gather around and convene on the scene to determine who had crafted the meanest 16. Should it be a rhyme or a poem? We would vote on it, sprinkle some hope on it and watch it flourish. Our hope was to provide some sort of nourishment to someone in need, you know… plant a seed. We were bout that cultivation life.
I remember this era very vividly; Saul Williams and his crew had made Slam Poetry POP with explicit bridges to hood life and hip-hop and WE WERE SOLD. Our experience finally depicted in BOLD and every ODE we professed suddenly mattered. There seemed to be another avenue or bridge opening up for the voiceless..the choice less. There was written and verbal expression to match emotions; there was aggression to match the oppression. Our experience was being decoded in the present tense by a modern day griot. It was Saul on the Road to Damascus. It was our rebirth, our renaming, and reclaiming of self. We could not detach ourselves from the articulation of something that spoke for us and TO US.
Saul Williams was a definitive catalyst for bringing Slam Poetry to cinema injecting it into popular culture unapologetically and emphatically. Before the popularity of Def Poetry and Brave New Voices, Saul Williams was one of the primary architects of that bridge.
“Intelligence is intuitive you needn’t learn to love unless you’ve been taught to fear and hate.” – Saul Williams
Educators can use the visual imagery and verbal delivery associated with Saul Williams’ poetry to identify with students’ everyday experiences. His cadence and captivating wordplay provide access to multiple entry points and thematic connections that could lay the groundwork for in-depth conversation and deeper dives into content. He is definitely and underutilized treasure in bridging the culture of NOW with the poetry and social justice.
Salute to you, Mr. Williams – A true wordsmith of our time.