Def Poetry Jam was a spoken word poetry television series hosted by Mos Def and airing on HBO between 2002 and 2007. Spoken word literally saved my life and changed my life. I would listen to spoken word poetry while I was working on my PhD, or relaxing, or even while I was sleeping. Those words kept me going. They also made me start writing again, when I thought I had lost my voice. Spoken word, gave me back my voice.  My favourite poets from the series are listed below in no particular order:

Joaquin Zihuatanejo — This is a Suit

I love the fact that it opens with legalese ‘specific litigation…’ A history lesson in a few short minutes. A snapshot of a life lived.


Michael Ellison — Mezeker Means to Remember

Now this guy does the bait and switch thing. And I love it. Memory and the failure to remember, each life makes this world richer, each loss makes it poorer.


Roger Bonair Agard — Calypso

Spoken word is meant to resonate with the musical rhythms and this one is an ode to calypso. Because music is always something more. An exploration of the depths of Calypso, a compelling listen.


Daniel Beaty – Knock, Knock

This is how to perform spoken word. I was spellbound when I heard this one. A personal tale of a father’s absence against a bigger picture.


Sunni Patterson: A Poetic Medley

This is Ms Patterson being dazzling. With her Afro and her baby and she is speaking word, like we are sitting in her living room, but she is taking us back to the dawn of time and opening our eyes to see vistas of possible worlds before us, if we would just believe. There is a reason I love Ms Patterson.


Gemineye – What Are You Fighting For?

Gemineye went there. Life is precious, but we need to open our eyes and see it. Sometimes we underestimate the power in our own hands.


Bassey Ikpi – Homeward


Oh! Homeward makes me cry, because of my grandmother, because we live in a world that insists on labelling dualities and pluralities, because home will never stop calling, because home is more than a place and because Ms Ikpi is brilliant.

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African woman, lawyer, teacher, poet and researcher. Singer of songs, writer of words, very occasional dancer of dances. I seek new ways of interpreting the African experience within our consciousness to challenge static ideology.

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