Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Being Real, a Tribute to Slam

I had the pleasure of watching the live finals for Youth Speaks, a slam poetry event for teens in the Bay area. Watching 15 year olds pour out their hearts in rhythmatic beats infuses your core with passion for life and a renewed sense to also, yes be that true. It’s a week later but I still cannot get their verse out of my mind.

The kids slammed about abuse, race, sex, body image, childhood crushes, and most importantly how they were finally becoming comfortable in their own skin.

Their raw honesty shone like a brilliant orb in a confusing world of masks and fear and fake appreciation. They didn’t apologize for who they were, but rather stood up and promoted their insecurities, neuroses and hurts to the entire audience at the Davies Symphony Hall.

Us adults could learn something from them. As we climb life’s ladders we often feel that we have to cover up parts of who we are, pretending to always be strong, beautiful and achieving. What if we decided to be raw like the poetry kids and for once were honest with the world? Perhaps it is time for us to slam too.

If Life Were a Poetry Slam
In a slam people are applauded for speaking the truth with passion and displaying and innate “humanness” (delivered in rhyming cadence of course). We cry and clap because somehow we can relate to their story.

If we applauded others around us, and delivered honest words ourselves what would change? For example…..

Would the corporate guy confess
that cubicles and clocks and conference calls
aren’t his bag and he’d happily trade
all perks for the chance to work
on an organic farm up in the hills and raise rabbits?

Would the American dater / the multi-tasking mater
cast the rulebook aside and admit “Hey, I really like you”
instead of waiting until day 3 to call and date 3 to fall
into a heap of wanton nakedness?
And would the naked girl stop saying “hey I’m really not this way” because it’s maybe okay
to be that way…. If you are honest and healthy and in the moment.

Regrets can be
A product of society
mandating what to do and who to be (not free)…..and being burdened with a need to be liked accordingly. Be polite. Be patient. Be pretty.

And would the pretty beauty queen stop being mean
And aloof and let down her guard to say she hates that no one respects her mind
and uses her time
as an disposable accessory, not as person with an opinion?
And would the tech geek admit that he just wants a beauty queen
on his side to prove he’s cool, not just a coding fool,
and maybe with her he’ll ft in and show them!
That he’s made it? And maybe he’ll make it her with her too….and he’d listen to her opinions.

And would I stop apologizing that I’m still not married, still not sober, still not over treks to eccentricity searching for a different reality
Yes I know I am supposed to have a house with babies but there’s mountains to climb and words to rhyme
And pickets fences scare me. Give me a surfboard instead.

And instead of silence and lies and masqueraded disguise
Could we instead be real
And tell others what we feel
What we fear and what we love
And hope they don’t judge
But instead applaud us.


For anyone that is interested in hearing the power of the spoken word, the International Brave New Voices event is coming to San Francisco July 20-23.

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