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The Difference Between Page Poetry & Spoken Words

Submitted by Editor2 on 27 September 2023

By Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan

Expressing oneself in a meaningful and relatable manner is one of the basic duties of a writer; poetry is one of the exquisite mediums through which writers express themselves. However, there is another medium, spoken words, that most people often synonymously employ to mean poetry as well. Though the essence of these arts is to express oneself before an audience, however, the manner and mode of delivery are usually different, thereby conferring some level of disparity between the two mediums.

The essence of every art is to communicate an idea, express a concept, or (re)capture a moment in time. But to equate page poetry to spoken words is to say that painting and sculpting are the same; this is, however, not an attempt to put any of the mediums below each other. Although a very similar approach goes into creating both page poetry and spoken words, they equally serve similar purposes, but there is, however, a sharp contrast in the two mediums of art. Being that this sharp contrast is not infinitesimal enough to be ignored, it is worthy of an unbiased discussion.

When we think of page poetry, or even read through it, we often encounter meanings layered across the deep strata of the poem, and these meanings mostly come out differently according to different readers; even when the meanings overlap on passing through different readers, it comes out in different spectrums according to the way the reader perceives the piece at such time. Spoken words on the other hand, come out mostly with the audience in mind since they must be carried along for the performance to truly achieve its purpose; this accounts for why the meanings in it are readily available to the audience. The line breaks conveyed in the delivery of the performance are enough for the listeners to process what was said and make meaning out of it. This is, however, different from page poetry whose meanings can even differ from time to time, depending on the way a  particular reader understands it at such time. But this is not to say that spoken words are an easier form of page poetry, the two arts are just different in their manner of their communication.

As stated earlier, spoken words are done in a more objective manner with the goal of gaining a substantial understanding and reactions from the audience, hence, the reason why its meaning is made more accessible to the listeners. There is no need to deep-root its meanings in the lines; the references are made in a very relatable way so that the audience can easily grasp it. The line breaks during the performance allows the audience to process the previous lines, while letting them sink into their understanding, in readiness of the next lines. It’s therefore easier to tell how much your audience perceives your art while performing a spoken word. Page poetry is, however, more subjective and requires a lot more effort to piece together the meanings it carries.

Summarily, while these two mediums of art share a great level of similarities, they allow writers to express themselves in a different manner, and to achieve a different level of delivery and purpose. Page poetry is more subjective and personal, and carries a deeply rooted spontaneous emotions and thoughts of a writer, while spoken word carries the emotions and thoughts of the writer as well, it is delivered in a manner that will mostly evoke the reactions of the audience.




Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan (he/him/his) is a speculative writer of Izzi, Abakaliki ancestry; a finalist for the SPFA Rhysling Award, a nominee for the Forward Prize, a data science techie and a medical laboratory scientist. He was the winner of the 2021 Write About Now’s Cookout Literary Prize. He has works at Strange Horizon, Nightmare Mag, Augur Mag, Filednotes Journal, Kernel Magazine, Mizna, and elsewhere. He tweets @wordpottersul1.