The artists who make up the local spoken-word community represent the present landscape of Chattanooga, as well as the direction the city is heading. There is a stunningly varied array of voices here whose works are both enthralling and brave, and they are offering valuable and distinct artistic perspectives. For instance, there are currently more open and active LGBT spoken-word artists in the area than ever before. While the Scenic City remains a very conservative place, this fact alone is indicative of how some of the cultural leanings are shifting into more accepting and progressive territory.
As a whole, spoken-word is still largely considered to be a new art form. But, over the past 17 years, it’s become more of a legitimate art form nationally. What’s interesting to note about this is that the oral tradition of reciting songs, stories, and poems is actually a great deal older than written language. However, everything in life is truly cyclical, and, if enough time passes, old standards tend to get rediscovered, re-branded with renewed fervor, and become new again.
Given that the national understanding and appreciation of the art is evolving, Chattanooga has much to be proud of, and should be immensely optimistic about the future cultivation of the craft. A good number of our spoken-word artists are doing great work that should inspire anyone who has a pen, a voice, and enough drive to bring their passion to fruition. Storyteller Jim Pfitzer has been touring his Aldo Leopold show all across the country. A story slam has been taking place for more than six months where participants tell stories in five minutes, and a winner is declared at the end of the night. I recently finished a spoken-word EP.
The South has always given its wordsmiths their share of material. If you are a Southerner, there are words resting in your throats. More and more people in our city are realizing this, and on any stage, on any given night, they are stepping behind microphones, opening their mouths, and allowing their voices to sing.