The poetry rEvolution has been in full swing for 30 years, and spoken word is at the vanguard of this ground-breaking, earth-shattering transformation. As poetry moved from the page to the stage, there came a tectonic shift from obsolescence to state-of-the-art. Poetry has moved back to its roots, or its oral origin, and thus this new form has returned the voice of the people to the people. Poetry is no longer associated with ivory towers or stuffy elbow patches. Now, due to the inclusionary philosophy of spoken word, poetry has become a forum for everyone to share their words and stories. This up-rise of spoken word has made it possible for poetry to embrace all forms of creative expression.

The vision for this workbook and interactive website arrived to me as an epiphany. Pow! Create an inspirational resource where people can explore their own poetry (through history, story, voice, and song). Construct a universe where individuals know they are not alone and give them the tools to manifest their own Spoken Word performances. Make creativity fun! Wadj.

So it became my mission to create this resource, and I am thrilled with the outcome of the endeavour. It has surpassed any and all expectations I might have imagined. Throughout the process I have learned about life, writing, and performance from all of the contributors, and I have been moved on many occasions to experiment with the exercises they have submitted. What an adventure! Some of the passages in this book have been so humbling they have brought me to tears–others so authentically embody the struggles of the artist, I have responded with deep contemplation–others have sparked outbursts of laughter, and then there were those that made me question my own reality. But I must say that all of the contributions have been thoughtprovoking. It is my intention and sincere hope that everyone who participates in these exercises expands their perspective and the breadth of their possibilities-as writers, performers, and human beings.

What is spoken word? It is a genre in transition, which I hope is always so–for defining it, pinning it down, stating what it is, immediately puts restrictions on the possibilities of new vision and/or voice. I remember when I started down this path 30 years ago, before "Spoken Word" existed, and there would always be some poetry know-it-all who would say "that isn't poetry." As if they held some cosmic key or the holy rule book to what poetry is or could be. To them I say, "Crazy!" Poetry is for the outcasts, the unclaimed, the trail-blazers, the rule-breakers, the renegades, and the soul-dancers. Anyone who desires to write a poem should not live in fear of being arrested by the poetry police! Spoken word poetry lives everywhere and anywhere voices have something to say: on the street, in the bars, in artistrun galleries-words are read in basements, clubs, and cabarets, anywhere.

What is true now? The term "Spoken Word Artist" refers to and encompasses all artists/poets working in the oral tradition. This includes: jazz, dub, hiphop,sound, slam, folk, mystic poets, and storytellers. It emulates the beat of the street. Spoken word includes the body, as memory vessel, and resonator. Gesture is an important aspect for punctuation and jubilation. Spoken word poetry is oration with rhythm, metre, and repetition, and often involves humour and social commentary. It is presented in the lingo of the people for the people and often references pop culture. Improvisation is used both in the development of work as well as in the performance. Spoken word artists seek new and innovative forms to present their work, including new media. It is important to recognise the historical context of spoken word. Some claim the oral tradition originated with Homer, continued through to Shakespeare, Dadaism, Surrealism, and into the Beats. This is true for those of the academic persuasion, but the roots of the oral tradition originated in a diverse variety of cultures: African culture, Caribbean culture, North American Aboriginal culture, Islamic culture, Celtic culture, and every culture known to humankind. It doesn't matter how you look at it, it is an unarguable point–spoken word is the oldest form of poetry. It is no phenomenon that poets who practise the oral tradition continue to contemporize the presentation of their work to keep up with modern movements. Spoken word may be theatrical or multi-disciplinary in nature, with a strong leaning toward cabaret. But all spoken word poetry is about taking action—it is about being part of positive change. It is about evolving and bringing transformation both to self, to the world. It is poetry that speaks about working together to make a better, more compassionate, place. This is achieved by having voice, giving voice, listening, and taking action in our own communities. The time has come.