Beyond Words and Rhymes: The Thoughts of a Spoken Word Artist Offstage
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, December 06, 2018 9:18am
Art by Dani Elevazo
Once the microphone's on and a single spotlight lightens up the dark room, an artist goes up and takes center stage. The room quiets as he delivers the first line, every word filled with emotions. During the middle of the piece, people will start cheering as they hear lines they could relate to. At the end, the poet takes a bow, his thanks drowning in the noise of the audience's applause.
It's awesome to see someone perform heartfelt pieces on stage, but we think that baring yourself and your soul is a scary thing. Spoken word artist Jonel Revistual can attest that this is true. In fact, he described it as both "frightening and humbling".
"Performing on stage is my most vulnerable state," he said.
Jumpstarting Because of 22 Jump Street
Jonel is part of Words Anonymous, a spoken word group in the Philippines which helped him grow as a writer and as a human being. He graduated with a degree in broadcast communication. It can be one of the reasons why he can easily communicate his thoughts. During the day, he works as a copywriter in an advertising company.
With the way he performs, you would know that he obviously loves spoken word poetry as his art and craft. More often than not, he tackles socio-political issues in his poems. (You should definitely watch his "Isang Magsasaka, Dalawang Panginoon", btw.)
His passion towards spoken word first sparked way back when he watched the 2014 action comedy film 22 Jump Street. Apparently, one of the main characters played by Jonah Hill performed in a slam poetry event.
“I remembered after that, I googled ‘spoken word poetry PH’ and the rest is history. The timing was just perfect because I really wanted to pursue writing,” Jonel said.
Spoken Word Is More Than Just ‘Hugot’
This “modernong makata” is fearless in expressing his thoughts, getting inspirations from current events and several of his favorite artists, namely Phil Kaye, Louise Meets, and Zuela Herrera.
Now, we see spoken word poetry as a way to release all the "hugot" we have within. Many people who get introduced to spoken word by way of either watching a show or writing their own pieces typically start with love and relationship poems to enrich their own understanding of themselves and the human experience. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, Jonel also wants others to experience what else lies beyond the perils of our personal relationships.
"There's a lot of work to do when it comes to changing the perception towards spoken word—it's not just about "hugot", it's also about resistance against different types of oppression," he said.
Continuing the Never-Ending Cycle
For Jonel, the challenge is to how to be consistent with the hunger for writing. According to him, writing is “a never-ending cycle of consuming and giving back” and he would like to pass this form of art to the future generation.
He encourages people who would want to pursue spoken word to put themselves out there, immerse themselves in the community, read more, and watch more. Only then can they see the change and hear the pain of the Filipinos.
“Spoken word poetry is special because of the instant connection that it makes between the performer and the audience. We are in the field of feelings - people watch performances to be humanized. So, remember that the plight against any form of oppression has always been the backbone of spoken word poetry,” he said.
How long will he continue performing? Jonel’s answer is simple: “As long as I can.”
If you would want to see Jonel and his co-poets' other performances, you can find them here.