Words by Fleassy Malay
There is a bizare phenomenon I see in the Spoken Word scene. I saw it in the Slams of the UK, the high fire nights of Vancouver and the diverse and rolling scene of Melbourne. I saw it every month for two years at Mother Tongue. Every time I see it, it feels like my heart is breaking just a little bit.
The phenomenon is this. To set the scene: A poet gets on stage, silent… walks to the microphone, looks at the audience. The tension is high. They take a deep breath and open their mouth. Out pours a passion driven, soul breaking, cry to the night. A war cry. A love cry. A sex cry. They even arch their necks, their backs, fists pumping in the air! They are speaking for the unspoken voices, they are freeing women from slavery, freeing hearts from chains, freeing people from labels and judgement. The voice of the people!
The audience goes wild.. I mean WILD! They holla and cheer. Whistles, tears and clapping!.
And then…it happens… this heart breaking phenomenon.
The poet curls inwards, the resonating sounds of the applause crumbling their height like a cheap fascade and their shoulders curve forwards. Their head sinks down. They blush. They even TURN AWAY from the audience.
Once the audience stops applauding the poets clears their throat, a meek voice of “Umm” and “Err” dribbles out of this suddenly coy and daunted creature as they go on to thank the audience and introduce their next piece with an air of “it’s new so please… I’m sorry I’ve not learnt it… it’s been a while… I’ve had a long day…”
I sit there in the audience, the bubbling potency of what was before me only a few minutes earlier fizzles out into a bizare sense of “…meh” or something. I want to take this person by the shoulders and shake them screaming “YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THIS!”
I feel like this, because I have been that poet. I spent years being that poet. Now I spend my life helping people shift that.
So what really happens in this moment? When we speak a poem (or for musicians when they play a song) we find ourselves in a “safe zone”. We are framed, we have context, we have a reason to be there and we know we are fulfilling a role the audience wants. However once the poem stops, suddenly we are out in the flat lands. The trees have dropped away and we become like raw meat for the birds of prey to feast upon. We are vulnerable.
What we forget is that the audience is vulnerable too, we have swept them up in our arms, fed them worlds and now we have droped them down again. They hunger to see us. All of us. They hunger to know us because if they can know us, they can believe that they could BE us.
The truth is we have been conditioned in many ways to play this role, the shy role, the modest role, after all it is the meek who shall inherit the earth… or something. But I am sick of it. YOU DESERVE TO FEEL LOVED! In that moment when people have recieve the gift that YOU have given them, you should be able to recieve what they give back, their gratitude. Imagine.
This has become my passion, the question “Who are you between the poems?” What if you could be TOTALY yourself, look into the eyes of the audience and be honest with them without shying away, or putting on some over the top mask? What if you could be straight up and true?
What if you let yourself actually be seen? The passion for it has driven me to run multiple courses now for over 3 years with hundreds of people exploring this exact question, I have seen mountains conquered, I have seen hearts explode.
It’s strange to think in a sub-culture dedicated to speaking truths and freeing hearts that we still carry these social conditions that we must not become a Tall Poppy.
I say FUCK the tall poppy.
Be a fucking sunflower!
When was the last time you walked past a garden with sunflowers and thought “Fuck You for growing sunflowers so big and tall and bright!” … Infact is it not that you pass a garden of sunflowers and say to yourself “wow, how beautiful! I’d LOVE to grow some sunflowers too.”
THIS is how we inspire.
After all, it is how we were inspired.
SO, Poets of the world, I emplore you to step up!
The audience deserves more from you.
YOU deserve more from you!
Next time the audience applauds you, take a moment to really really hear what they are saying, and shine.
If you are ready to be totally and utterly yourself on stage, ready to shine without fear of your own light.. ready to become a sunflower then sign up for my next 6 week course based in Melborune. The next one begins on the 11th of October 2015 for full details and to apply see www.fleassymalay.com/speak-up or email email@example.com.
Fleassy Malay is an Internationally renowned, evocative and powerful spoken word artist from the UK. Now based in Melbourne, Australia, she runs one of Melbourne’s most successful Spoken Word events, Mother Tongue. Her quirky, theatrical and emotive performance style captivates audiences leaving them both laughing and crying, occasionally both at the same time. Fleassy incorporates both her Theatre background with her love of hip hop and poetry to create stories and poems that ooze rhythm, melody and personality. She also teaches 6 week Spoken Word courses looking at the power of vulnerability and honesty both on and off the stage.