Column: Spoken word poetry, my hidden talent unleashed

In Artist Profile, Columns, Features, Lifestyle
A photo of a man who is shuffling through papers that feature several different poems.
(Kim Pham / Daily Titan)

I didn’t become a poet. Poetry was a beast inside of me, barking and howling at the ill-confined cage it was kept in, until one day it broke out.

It’s been about three years and three books since I started to write spoken-word poems. I’ve performed them at open mics on campus and in downtown Fullerton.  

As I’m rustling through the hundreds of pages of poems I’ve typed up in preparation for the “Speak Yo Truth Tuesday Poetry Open Mic” in the Titan Student Union Pub, I realized I was always destined to do this I just didn’t know it.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with rhymes, the way a biologist is fascinated with cells and enzymes. I would come up with them in my mind; it was an easy challenge.

No wonder every book I brought back from the library in my miniature backpack was Dr. Seuss. The other books were boring to me, they didn’t flow and they didn’t have bars like “Cat in the Hat.” Dr. Seuss, he had bars and his books featured those furry creatures illustrated on every page.

I was Ho Sam I Am, and I didn’t like green eggs and ham.

I remember when I lived in Nepal and my mother would read and practice with us verses from the Quran before school at the bus stop. The verses of the Quran have poetic flow and rhyme – they’re beautiful depending on who reads them.

I guess it’s because of this that rhymes have a divine connotation to me it’s spiritual. Writing poetry is a holy act for me, that’s probably why some of the best rappers are Muslim. It’s part of our religion, the rhymes have that connection.

In high school my brother started to rap. My brother and I have always been attached at the hip. I followed him everywhere he went and copied everything he did. If he wasn’t home I would interrogate my parents about his whereabouts. It made sense to follow in his footsteps.

The only problem was I couldn’t keep rhythm with the beat. I was slow with delivery and lacked the confidence to rap, but always had the content. I could come up with lines that were powerful, thought provoking and witty. I could conjure up lines that were childish and immature and lines that would tickle your socks off. The delivery was just horrible, the words would stumble out my mouth like a drunk man out of a bar.

The lines would exist in my mind, bouncing off my cerebral walls like a screensaver from the 2000s, until more pressing insecurities and responsibilities would occupy the space.

Throughout my childhood, I had poetic urges on the brim of erupting and overflowing onto the surface, but I managed to keep the beast in control.

It wasn’t until heartbreak that the beast knew freedom.

I cried for days. I found myself losing my temper at the people around me over trivial things for the sake of releasing my anger. My behavior wasn’t healthy and I was drowning in a sea of alcohol and emotions emotions that needed to be expressed. I expressed them in the only way I knew how, through rhyme.

There was no stopping me after that, it was all coming out on paper. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t write the poems, the poems wrote themselves and I was simply a medium. They existed in me and I was helping them pass to the other side. By writing it down or performing, I had put the poem to rest. It wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.

With poetry you set your own rhythm, it’s more free. I never liked to write poems that followed a certain structure or adhered to certain rules, I only enjoy writing free verse. The experience is supposed to be a liberating one, it made no sense to me to constrict my words to other people’s rules. Part of the fun was creating my own rules for the piece. Each inspired work had its own style and existed in its own world.

These unique pieces captured new feelings as they were released into the world, sort of like fishing. It’s catch and release, acknowledging those feelings and moving past them.

I used the poetry to get through my heartache like a cast is used to mend a broken bone. It was therapeutic for me. I replaced the person that gave me the most joy with an activity that gave me an even greater joy a joy that would not walk out on me whenever it saw fit, even though on nights with intense writer’s block, it sure felt that way. It is a joy that I could create all by myself.

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