The Power of Spoken Word and Using Poetry to Speak Your Truth with Artist In-Q
Find your truth. Speak your truth. Live your truth. These are all popular sayings, but how do you accomplish them?
What does “your truth” even mean? And, is it worth discovering and living out “your truth”?
Simply put, “your truth” is the choices, feelings, and actions that resonate with the deepest parts of you and that you would make if you were immune to the influence of others’ opinions. Most of us don’t find, speak, or live our truth on a regular basis because it’s hard and doing so goes against the cultural grain.
IN-Q, now an award-winning poet, multi-platinum songwriter, keynote speaker, and best-selling author, discovered his truth through spoken word poetry. Making a career out of spoken word poetry wasn’t IN-Q’s original ambition — he wanted to be a rapper. But passionately pursuing what IN-Q knew to be most true in the moment — his desire to be a rapper — led to what he does today.
Today, IN-Q uses the art of spoken word poetry to help others discover and live their truth. Find out how you can live your truth by embracing elements of poetry shared throughout this article!
What Is Spoken Word Poetry?
Life is all about you, and not at all about you
Now that’s two opposing thoughts and yet both of them are true.
— Higher View, IN-Q
Spoken word poetry is an art form that combines musical elements, written words, a memorized performance, and expressive body language. The Masterclass on spoken word describes spoken word poetry as “a word-based performance art where speakers engage in powerful self-expression by sharing their views on particular topics for a live audience, focusing on sound and presentation.”
Spoken word artists often take creative inspiration from rap, hip-hop, storytelling, theater, jazz, rock, blues, and folk music. Pieces usually include rhyme, repetition, and improvisation; however creative license for spoken word poetry is broad, and none of these are required.
How Is Slam Poetry Different?
Imagine being in a room shoulder to shoulder with eager, talkative creatives. At the front sits a row of volunteer judges facing a small but well-lit stage. A hush descends upon the entire room as a man in his early 30s finds the center of the stage. With a deep breath, he begins.
Words sweep the room in a familiar friendly way before building speed and suspense, then finally ebbing away into thought-provoking pauses. While captivated by the artist’s performance, the audience hums agreement to phrases that speak to them, clap and cheer for words of breakthrough, and give sound to soul-aches as the story unearths pain. The energy is tangible.
With that imaginative exercise, you saw yourself in a Poetry Slam, sometimes called a Slam.
Slam poetry is a form of competitive poetry performance that gives spoken word artists a place to share their work and connect with like-minded creatives. The name “slam” is derived from the audience’s participation and the high-energy performance style.
Why Poems About Truth Are Powerful
Spoken word poems are moving because they often come from a place of truth.
Hearing the truth spoken by another can often awaken truth in the listener. IN-Q puts it this way, “Poetry celebrates vulnerability as strength. It is a timeless form of storytelling that inspires connection and opens hearts and minds. Experiencing ourselves through another person’s story creates empathy, and empathy is what the world needs most right now.”
We can experience ourselves through another person’s story when truthful things are shared. Poetry is a unique medium for truth in three ways: minimalism, storytelling, and vulnerability.
Poetry Is Minimalistic
Have you ever gone for a walk outside and suddenly felt overwhelmingly peaceful?
There’s a sense of minimalism in nature. Trees rustling, wind whooshing, and birds tweeting. Nothing is in the way of you and your thoughts.
That’s how IN-Q described poetry, too. He says, “There’s nothing to get in the way of words and the message. There’s just the words, the message, and the person speaking.”
In other words, there aren’t a lot of distractions in poetry. You sit with the words and hear them because that’s the entertainment — word performance. And any emotion the speaker is evoking, you feel. The simplicity of poetry is a part of its power.
Poetry Is Storytelling
Stories are captivating.
According to StoryBrand Founder and story expert Don Miller, “[N]euroscientists claim the average human being spends more than 30% of their time daydreaming…unless! Unless they’re reading or watching a movie. Why? Because when we are engaged in a story, the story does the daydreaming for us.”
Spoken word poetry often tells a story. While an artist is performing, the audience is imagining the story right along with them — they might even be seeing themselves as the story’s main character experiencing all the situations and emotions. This keeps the listener engaged and creates a memorable experience of the moment or the lessons woven through the poetic story.
Poetry is Vulnerable
Most artists will tell you that to create anything good you must start with what is true. That is a scary beginning because what is true is also (usually) vulnerable — or at least the act of sharing it with others is.
Speaking about his book Inquire Within, IN-Q said, “I wrote all of these poems from that [internal] place of truth. I don’t strategize my inspiration. I pay attention to what [inspires me], and then I follow that breadcrumb trail.”
Creating and sharing from this “internal place of truth” allows unity to form. All of us have experienced heartache and delirious joy in some way. Our situations haven’t all been the same, but we can all relate to longing for someone, being left behind, or laughing until tears spill down our cheeks. Stories that evoke common and uniting emotions often originate from vulnerable truth.
Poems about truth are powerful because their simplicity gives us a window into our souls. Poems about truth are powerful because their stories captivate us and keep us in the moment. Poems about truth are powerful because their vulnerability evokes empathy and unites us.
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How to Let Loose and Find Your Truth
Defining myself is like confining myself, so I undefined myself to find myself.
Finding your truth is like watching one of your favorite childhood movies as an adult and suddenly understanding the deeper themes woven throughout. As a kid, you thought the movie was a fun story, and as an adult, you realize the movie was teaching important lessons about forgiveness and perseverance.
Life can feel like a fun, heartbreaking, or chaotic story at times, but like a favorite childhood movie, it’s usually revealing something deeper — your truth. To excavate your truth from the story of life, you need to pay attention to life, be inspired by life, and embrace life as it is.
Pay Attention to Life
Have you ever explained a challenging decision you needed to make to a friend and, without thinking, spoke the answer you had been trying to come up with all along?
The answer to the challenging decision was inside you, but it stayed hidden until you unraveled all the options. Paying attention to life allows the answers already inside you to surface. IN-Q encourages moments of silence or time outside as a way to find your truth.
“[I]f you have something going on in your life that you can’t figure out, yes, you can search outside of yourself for [an answer]. But you can also find moments of silence, be in nature and allow that authentic voice you have inside of you to come up to the surface.”
We can’t discern our own truth if we’re continually moving from one task to another and scrolling social media during every spare moment. Quietness and fewer distractions allow us to connect with the answers and truth we already carry.
Be Inspired by Life
Have you ever left an event moved by something someone said and determined to do differently? The thought or idea they communicated was so inspiring you were ready to change, whether that change was to practice daily mantras, hug your partner more often, or drink kale smoothies.
Life can inspire us, too. In fact, according to IN-Q, “If you’re not inspired by life, you’re not paying attention. [When you’re inspired by life you’re able to] take all the emotions you’re going through on a daily basis and transform them into art that mirrors your humanity back on to the world.”
Your experiences, thoughts, and feelings are the inspiration that leads to your truth and the goodness you’re meant to share with the world.
Embrace Life as It Is
When it comes to hard or uncomfortable things in life, many of us have entertained thoughts like, “If this hadn’t happened, then…” or “If this had been different, then….” While these thoughts are common and understandable, they keep us from living in the moment and drawing on the lessons and inspiration offered.
In an interview with Lewis Howes, IN-Q shared how he wouldn’t be making the impact he is today as a poet without the difficult times and circumstances in his life. He said, “When you have things that were very painful growing up it forces you to look at your life from the outside looking in. And if you don’t have that you don’t start to ask questions about yourself or the environment until much later.”
Embracing life as it is and asking questions about it helps us become the people we’re meant to be.
3 Inspiring Spoken Word Poetry Examples
To be inspired means to be spurred on, compelled to, stimulated to do, or think differently. Most of us want to create from a place of inspiration, and it’s a fun place to create from, but it’s not always readily available to us. So how do you create when you’re not inspired?
A few ways to get the creativity flowing without inspiration include absorbing others’ content, picking a genre to create, and giving yourself advice or encouragement. IN-Q often creates from a place of speaking to himself:
“All of my poems are prayers. I’m talking to myself like they’re reminders of the life I want to live. When I get an opportunity to get up and share them with other people, I’m talking to myself first, and [then] people are observing me doing that and hopefully seeing their own humanity in that mirror.”
By speaking to himself first, IN-Q creates uncannily relatable pieces. While IN-Q performs spoken word poetry, his content has a wide range of purposes. Sometimes he writes to inspire action, cultivate a vision for the future, and raise awareness.
Do you ever feel like you need a pause button or a “slow down” button for life?
In Have You Ever Been Excited For Now, IN-Q invites his audience to consider the significance of the moment they’re living. Instead of trying to keep up with the wild pace, the culture expects us to keep up with, IN-Q invites his listeners to be present. Through simple word pictures and a repeated question, IN-Q reminds us of the many things that happen each moment we take for granted.
If you haven’t watched this moving performance before, we highly recommend it. But don’t expect to watch it and move on right away — you’ll want to sit and savor the moment.
Create a Vision
Have you almost driven off the right side of the road because you were looking at something off to the right?
You go where you’re looking. Where you’re looking is powerful.
Through painting a story of an 85-year-old couple’s daily life, IN-Q also creates a vision of what committed selfless love looks like. This vision he creates has its rough patches, but it also has the person who doesn’t live — it’s a vision worth fighting for.
Did you know you can create awareness without donating, wearing a t-shirt, growing out your beard, or holding a sign?
You can create with purpose. That’s precisely what IN-Q did through Drug Addiction. By putting words to an internal battle, IN-Q opened a door for understanding and hope. He reminds listeners that they’re not alone — everyone has struggled with one addiction or another — and paints a picture of what living in freedom might be like.
He concludes with a beautiful invitation, “Make your heart the strongest muscle that you’ve got, then let it guide you in the dark, ’til you reach the other side.”
Be the Artist of Your Life
Embracing your life and discovering your truth is crucial to stepping into your greatness. Spoken word poetry is a unique and effective way to connect with your life and others in a meaningful way, but it is by no means the only way.
Whether you commit to taking a walk outside every day, trying a new hobby, or attending one of IN-Q’s poetry workshops, the important thing is that you know your life is a powerful and precious experience. Your truth is worth discovering and living!