Movements of a Trapped Animal

Maddie-Jamaal May Pic BlogpostA few years ago I discovered the poet, Jamaal May doing a spoken word piece on Button Poetry, which I recommend checking out, “Movements of a Trapped Animal.” I instantly became drawn to the rawness and honesty he achieves in the poem and knew that was something I wanted to achieve in my own writing. Hearing that he was coming to Writers Fest on March 5th was incredibly exciting and I really can’t wait to meet him and be able to learn from someone who has achieved the art of being able to do spoken word and write poetry really well while also keeping them in very separate worlds. He started out being better known for his slam poetry, being a member of six national slam teams, most from Detroit where he grew up and one from New York. He has won the Rustbelt Regional Slam three times and has been a finalist for many national and international slams.

When I first heard his piece, “Movements of a Trapped Animal,” I was just flipping through Button Poetry on YouTube. Listening to spoken word pieces is one of my favorite past times. I almost skipped past it because I assumed it was going to be about hunting or trapping and that didn’t exactly appeal to me, but I listened anyways. His presence on stage immediately eases you into the piece, welcomes you. He is comfortable and it allows you to fall whole heartedly into the piece, something many spoken word artists still work at achieving, something I still work at achieving. His purposeful hand gestures, full voice, inflection, and well-placed pauses force you to listen as he takes you on the journey of PTSD in Americans, not just war veterans, but everyone.

Also on Button Poetry is his piece, “Sky Now Black with Birds,” which he performs in his hometown Detroit at the Rustbelt Regional Slam. He walks us through the feelings of grief and the anger that comes with it and the eventual acceptance that one needs to forgive.

“Forgive.
I swear,
the word has feathers. I want
to learn to get its wings between my teeth
before more retribution
blots out the sky.”

I ordered his poetry collection, “Hum,” online. It was the first thing I had read and enjoyed in a long time because it was something I was genuinely interested in. It wasn’t an assignment or anything, I read it because I wanted to. I want to be able to walk up to him at Writers Festival and tell him his poetry has made a difference in my poetry. I will also be able to tell him that I’ve spent the time I should have spent writing, reading and listening to his work. I hope he takes that as a compliment.

-Madison Dorsey, Junior Poetry Editor