There is something delightful, weird, and beautiful about performance poetry. I don’t remember when I first heard about slam poets, those writers who blur the line between competition, song, drama, and wordcraft, but I do remember attending a few open mic readings and finding it fascinating, even if some of the words were kind of bizarre. There’s a rhythm, vibrancy, and streetwise life to it that can’t quite be matched in simply writing things down, and I admire the act of getting on a stage and baring the soul like that. These are people who breathe words in and out, the 21st century’s wandering bard.

Lately, I’ve been falling in love with poetry again but hadn’t thought much about this genre, until I saw a video To Write Love on Her Arms posted a few days ago. Anis Mojgani performed at their Heavy and Light event for the second time this year. I started to post that video, but I remembered the moment he stole the show at H&L 2010 with a piece called “Shake the Dust.” Because I’m biased toward the event I actually attended, here it is.

Imagine for a moment a concert hall filled with a couple thousand people, captivated into breathless silence by, of all things, a scruffy poet. Imagine being told your story matters, and for the first time, maybe actually believing it could be true.

That’s kind of what happened here. Suddenly, I’m sort of sad I missed it this year.

“For the ones who are told to speak only when they are spoken to
And then are never spoken to
Speak every time you stand
So that you do not forget yourself”