"Craft Sessions: The Spoken Word" Livestream Celebrates Artists + Poets
Throughout the world's history of oral tradition, poetry and spoken word have served as a few of the longest standing methods of cultural storytelling. Fortified with sharp delivery and rhythmic cadence and flow, poets have documented the nature of societies, brought awareness to widespread sociopolitical issues and put clear expression and voice behind necessary political change. Performance poet, spoken word and recording artist, J. Ivy calls a poet's flow "like jazz," often bringing arrangements together in a gripping climbing and falling fashion, all the while delivering messages in a verbal package unlike any other piece of art.
On July 28, The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter hosted its "Craft Sessions: The Spoken Word" livestream event, marking the Academy's first ever spoken word and poetry showcase. Designed in collaboration with the Chicago Chapter Spoken Word Advisory Group, the event celebrated the art form, raised awareness inside and beyond the poetry community of its relationship to the Academy and the GRAMMY Awards, and showcased a roster of some of the nation's and the world's most dynamic and impactful voices in spoken word today.
Craft Sessions: The Spoken Word
J. Ivy hosts Craft Sessions: The Spoken Word featuring performances from a nationwide collective of spoken word artists including Adia Victoria, Nate Marshall, Ursula Rucker, Jericho Brown, Mahogany L. Browne - Writer, Sekou Andrews, jessica Care moore and Tongo Eisen-Martin Poetry.
Posted by Recording Academy / GRAMMYs on Tuesday, July 28, 2020
The livestream was hosted by Recording Academy Chicago Chapter President and Chair of the Chapter's Spoken Word Advisory Group, J. Ivy and also featured other artists and poets throughout the program including GRAMMY nominee Sekou Andrews, Pulitzer Prize Winner Jericho Brown, and former Apollo Theater legend jessica Care moore. Singer/songwriter Adia Victoria as well as Ursula Rucker, Nate Marshall, Mahogany L. Browne and Tongo Eisen-Martin rounded out the lineup of performers.
The event, originally set to be hosted in Chicago while highlighting spoken word artists and poets throughout the Midwest, was shifted into a virtual experience after being offset by the impacts of COVID-19. The new adjustments ultimately lead organizers to cast a more all-encompassing net of poets and artists from around the country to join the program.
In his opening remarks, Ivy introduced the event and the overall initiative for spoken word advocacy by underscoring the transcendent and connecting power that poetry can have on individuals and their communities. It's this value in storytelling and special preservation that is of utmost importance as movements towards racial justice and equality continue to grow in influence and impact today.
"I have to first start out by saying how proud I am to be a member of the poetry community. Poetry, it changes lives, it saves lives. As poets, we have seen those effects happen in our own lives and in others," he said. "We've seen the power of our gifts, the power of the word. We've seen how poetry can shift and change somebody's life in an instant."
Ivy outlined the intrinsic connection the art form has to rhythm and cadence in music like jazz or hip-hop, saying, "Poetry is the root and the seed of every song ever written."
As each poet hit the virtual stage, they delivered special accounts of vivid personal stories, quotes, anecdotes and historical references. Many of the pieces presented during the night focused closely on shedding light to unjust power structures, intersectional oppression and recent events of police brutality that have sparked mass protests and organizing around the United States.
Atlanta-based educator and award-winning author Jericho Brown delivered a powerful piece, which he wrote after his learning of the many alleged suicide attempts of Black and brown people under police custody. "I will not shoot myself in the head, and I will not shoot myself in the back," he begins. "And if I do, I promise you I will not do it in the back of a police car, or in a jail cell of a town that I only know the name of because I have to drive through it to get home."
Mahogany L. Browne's piece retold the experience of what it means to be Black and a woman in America by rattling off the many double standards and constant expectations faced day by day. "You ain't supposed to smile in public, you ain't supposed to smile nowhere… you ain't supposed to dream at all… You ain't supposed to do nothing but carry silence… and confusion, and a nation, but never an opinion."
Each back-to-back performance piece struck heavy emotional chords, while allowing audiences to see their own experiences in the stories told and thoughts shared, empowering them to think differently about a perspective that hadn't been presented to them in such the way that poetry can.
"This is one of the most impactful programs I have had the honor to be a part of in my tenure with the Academy," said Chicago Chapter Senior Executive Director Sarah Jansen. "I am thrilled that we were able to shine a spotlight on the Spoken Word community, and present the incredible talent of the poets who were featured."
The power of the artform at its highest level was palpable throughout "Craft Sessions: The Spoken Word." As J. Ivy wrote in his recent op-ed on the art and craft of spoken word, "The nature of being a poet is listening, experiencing life, and documenting what you find… We capture what we see and what we feel. We're moved to shine light on subjects that affect us all. That has been the job of every poet that has come before us, every poet that is in the trenches speaking their truth right now, and every poet that will come after us."
Each year a GRAMMY Award is presented in the Spoken Word category to artists and storytellers of the craft, including poetry, audiobooks, voiceover and other forms of recorded speech. Emphasizing the importance of representation for poets within the category and also referencing a new focus on bolstering the category with recognition beyond traditional formats, J. Ivy stated "Poets, it's important that we show them we are the storytellers, the keepers of history."
"We show the world by making sure that we are present and in the building," Ivy said. "If you have projects, make sure that you're submitting, because we have to make sure we have spoken word artists represented in that category every year," he said.
Submissions for the GRAMMY category were open to projects from poets and spoken word artists until August 3. You can find more information on project submission, deadlines and requirements here.