Stories through Spoken Word

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In Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday, Janelle de Souza writes about young performer Brendon O’Brien—a student of Theatre Arts at the University of the West Indies—and the art of spoken word. O’Brien discusses the role of spoken word in Trinidadian society today and the benefits of cultivating this art form. Here are excerpts:

Everyone has a story that only they can tell, and Spoken Word gives them an opportunity to figure out how to tell their story, whether it’s their personal experiences or their views on society. Brendon O’Brien, 25, truly believes this and has been writing and performing Spoken Word for the past six years.

O’Brien explains that Spoken Word is poetry intended for onstage performance, rather than exclusively for reading.  “It’s not meant to sit on a page and be read. It’s best absorbed when you have the opportunity to see it and hear it in all of its glory. There’s just something about being able to take words, have your body metabolise them and do something else, and then an audience has to deal with the words as well as the person who creates them,” he said.

He believes the artform changes the way young people have conversations, as it allows them to express themselves, be heard, and bridges the gap between generations. He said Spoken Word is vital for youth as it is a way to communicate to people in authority effectively and vibrantly, a way for “older persons” to understand what youths need and their views on issues.

“To me, most importantly, young people have the opportunity to talk about the spaces within which we live in the ways we see them. Even if you are wrong, even if what is being said is not in correct English, or hasn’t been completely thought out, you can say it and someone would listen to it and consider it valuable for what it is,” he said.

[. . .] O’Brien placed second in the VS Bocas Poetry Slam last year and will be participating in the finals of this year’s competition on May 3. He also won the Ministry of Health’s “No Ifs, No Buts Poetry Slam” last year, and has been part of the Free Speech Project for the past three seasons.

[. . .] He said he believes there are many interesting, clever, talented, and creative persons in every area, especially depressed areas, but the general population does not know because people tell them that they amount to nothing. “I don’t ever want to be the person whose life justifies the argument that you have to leave a ‘bad’ place to be a good person. You have to be a good person to make a good place to me,” he said.

He continued saying that society believes that young men need a father figure to become upstanding citizen. He objected to that generalisation as his father was never part of his life. He admitted that his father’s absence affected him, but it never held him back. Instead, he decided what kind of person he wanted to be, someone who made an impact, and said his parents’ decisions and actions had no bearing on that.

“Nothing has ever held me back. I have made excuses over the years, some about my father, but fundamentally, the person that I am is because I learned at a very young age that it’s not about someone else’s decisions and ideas about me,” he said.

For full article, see http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,210290.html

See more information on O’Brien and photo above at the artist’s page: https://about.me/brendonobrien

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