Spoken word poetry is a literary medium that has been in existence for centuries. Today, it combines elements of theater, poetry, emotion and hip hop into a culture.
Here at Northern Kentucky University, disguised in the hustle of daily college life, two talented poetic artists have been able to rise above the rest.
“I am an artist,” Katya Stewart said. “My teacher once told me that I think like an artist, act like an artist and live like an artist.”
Stewart’s poetic art has been a way of life since she was 11. Stewart’s first experience with spoken word was at a competition at her grade school when her 5th grade teacher entered her name in a poetry contest for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she said.
“I’ve always been a good writer and in honors courses for writing,” Stewart said, when reminiscing about her early experiences with poetry.
She won the competition for the 4th through 6th grade category. Stewart found comfort from being on stage and in expressing her work. Since grade school, she has continued to receive national recognition for her poetry.
The Black Women’s Organization Poetry Jam, held at the beginning of this semester, was the perfect setting for Stewart to display her talent.
“Poetry is sex between pen and paper,” Stewart said in effort to define poetry.
She is passionate about her work as well as her stance in life.
“A lot of my poems come from my experiences, and I have a gift of being able to put others’ experiences into words. I think that is why my poetry hits home for others.”
A common theme throughout her work is her mother. Some of her best works have included intimate dealings with Stewart’s upbringing.
“My mother has been a big inspiration in my work,” she said.
Harim C. Ellis fell in love with the spoken word version of poetry after he watched “Love Jones” in 1997. However, pre – “Love Jones,” Ellis’ story is parallel to Stewart’s.
“I was always a good writer when it came to English compositions,” Ellis said. “I had always experienced poetry as a literary form but not as anything that interested me or was relevant to my personal life.”
After he watched “Love Jones,” he realized a different way to write poetry and really express the trials and tribulations of human life.
Ellis’ opportunity to showcase his talent arrived at the 2004 National African American Leadership Conference at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss. Ellis captivated an auditorium of more than 300 people with his poetic words.
The assembly of African American collegiate leaders from across the country expressed their approval with a standing ovation when he articulated his interpretation of today’s materialistic society in his poem titled “Name Brand Whores.”
Despite the attention his performance at this spoken word competition, Ellis humbly admits that he has so many other works that he wants people to hear.
“All the attention paid to that one poem is flattering,” he said, “but I have other poems that are equally as meaningful.”
Although he is nationally recognized for his poetry, Ellis is content with leaving it as a hobby.
“I don’t want to be a professional because I can’t be made to write,” Ellis said, “When I start getting paid for it, it will lose its authenticity.”
Ellis feels that his poetry is and will continue to be his therapeutic outlet.
Common themes throughout his work include the struggles, the triumphs and the failures of being a black man.
His inspirations include famous poetic artists such as Jill Scott and Langston Hughes but he also finds that the petrified first-timers to the mic with raw and untame talent are his biggest inspiration.
To all the students who keep their poetry hidden in journals not knowing whether or not it is worthy of sharing, Ellis and Stewart feel that poetry is a gift and if it is not utilized the gift will be lost.
“Write right when you feel it,” Ellis said.