From Homer to Hip-hop

July 24, 2022

Steeped in history, developing poems specifically for performances dates to ancient times, when epic poems like Homer’s Odyssey were recited for entertainment. Later, poetry was incorporated into theatrical events, when forms such as the ode accompanied music through the acts. 

Over the centuries, oral poetry gave rise to a variety of forms and styles. Chants and ghazals played major roles in religious and spiritual worship. Ballads and villanelles captured the adventure and romance of their day.

Fast-forward to the late 1970s, the rise of hip-hop  led to new ways for modern wordsmiths to showcase their skills onstage.

His poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1971), delivered over a jazz-soul beat, demonstrates the inextricable link between spoken word & Hip Hop music.

So let’s pause for a moment…and think about the art form of Spoken Word. What is it exactly?

Its performance poetry, oral poetry, songs, storytelling, stand-up – its poetry that just doesn’t exist on a page. It insists its heard out loud and witnessed in person.

It's visceral, in your face, in your ears, in your snapping fingers, and tapping feet.

Sprung loosely from the expressive energies of the blues, the Harlem Renaissance, and hip-hop music, each movement giving black communities throughout America over the course of a century a creative medium to challenge power and in turn galvanise their own power. 


Spoken word poetry is rhythmic and unstructured. There are no rules, no etiquette. It’s composed of medleys of slang and ordinary language. It comes out of young people, activists, artists. In 1984, a construction worker in Chicago organized the very first poetry slam-style event at a local jazz club. Ever since, poets have been performing and competing, both alone and with groups, in poetry slams where they’re judged on flow, rhythm, style, and enthusiasm. The fundamental lack of pretension in this oral form of poetry is what has given spoken word its charm, its power, and its resonance over the last twenty or so years. Want to know more? Watch this short history of spoken word.


It brings happiness, joy and contemplation to people’s lives. It makes us sit up and pay attention.It gives people a voice, and an audience that listens, no matter what age! Here’s Solli Raphael, the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam at just age 12.

At Bamboozled Productions we live and breathe performance art. If you’ve not explored Spoken Word before, perhaps knowing a little more about its roots will inspire you to explore this artform that has been exploding onto stages all over the world.

Louise Clarke

74 Upper Sturt Road, Upper Sturt, SA 5156 Australia

P: +61 (0) 404 834 589

We acknowledge the Kaurna People as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We recognise that this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land and we pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.