When I was 10 years old, I fell asleep to the “West Side Story” soundtrack. Nearly every night for two years, I had my blue Walkman next to my chest and my crappy yellow earphones in, drifting to sleep to Sondheim lyrics. My dreams were always so vivid those nights.
As I grew older, I stopped listening to “West Side Story.” Instead, I fell asleep to crickets, traffic and the sound of a pounding fan putting pressure on my ears. In short, I no longer fall asleep to stories.
My time has changed from nights with a Walkman to days with Spotify; whether it be walking to class, doing homework or driving to College Creek, I have become accustomed to drowning out my mind with noise. Growing tired of numbing my brain with the same five songs day in and day out, I am finding different ways to listen through spoken-word poetry.
Spoken-word poetry creates voices in my head that I welcome because they provide me a break from my own. It is the advice from my friend that I have yet to meet. Spoken poetry gives words excitement again, instead of the impersonal, complicated nature I am used to seeing in documents and articles.
Life has been overwhelming and strange lately, causing me to walk and breathe more. While I walk, I listen to the rhythmic words of others — almost like bedtime stories, except the voices are telling me their own unfinished tales and explaining how they cope with their own monsters and villains. Music fills my brain with vibrations. Spoken poetry fills my brain with colors — colors that begin to shape my own speech and thoughts. Now when I go to sleep, my dreams are vivid again; not because I sneak “West Side Story” into my brain, but because of the new worlds poetry has allowed me to play in.
Spoken poetry cannot fit into a Twitter limit or Instagram caption — its essence cannot be captured in a shared post. Do not pick and choose what comes into your head. Instead, pick and choose what you don’t often listen to so that you can train your mind to hear what it does not want to hear. Pick poems and subjects that make you cry and feel frustrated, so you can allow yourself to fall into intense emotion. Recognize that we all have voices, but, we all have ears too.
Spoken poetry fills my brain with colors — colors that begin to shape my own speech and thoughts.
Teach yourself how to listen so you can learn how to speak. It can only help us to understand and experience the minds of others. That is, after all, why we read novels, watch movies and listen to music — to somehow find our own humanity in each other’s words.
In the words of Shane Koyczan from his poem, “To This Day,” “our lives will only ever continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty.” The more we recognize the beauty and validity in each other’s chosen words, the more we can keep ourselves stable and fall asleep to the sweet rhythm that our minds create.