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Spoken-word poetry is a fairly new art. It began on college campuses and in urban communities. Now high schools and youth all over the country are involved in spoken word. First adopted through collegiate circles, spoken word, in the early 1980s, was recognized as a new performance art that incorporated many times music, dance and theater (according to spokenoak.com).


Russell Simmons Presents: Def Poetry (Def Poetry Jam) helped bring spoken word to a national audience (according to poets.org). The show, on HBO in 2002, featured the work of poets from around the country and with the audience growing, it caught quite a following. Poets like Shihan, Black Ice, Staceyann Chin and Mayda Del Valle were chosen to be a part of the Def Poetry Jam tour in 2005.

The host of the Def Poetry Jam was rapper, poet and actor, Mos Def. Here is the introduction of episode one, featuring Mos Def.

Through the creators of Def Poetry Jam, a new series was formed called Brave New Voices (BNV). Premiering in 2009, a huge poetry slam for the youth was broadcasted and exposed the thoughts and emotions of young teenagers around the U.S. One of the creators, James Kaas, began the first youth poetry slam in Nothern California and in the country, in 1996. Since then, the idea to have a national slam grew into what is now BNV, according to his interview with Human Nature Magazine.

Here is a poem from a previous performer of the winning New York City team in 2010.

Created by Annabelle Brooks