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Going Oral

Amani Olugbala
Going Oral
Spoken work performers at Shea's Smith Gallery

Manipulating words and storytelling is gratifying, but being able to do so through oral poetry is not an easy task. Spoken word poetry is originally written on a page, but only thrives when it’s lifted to the stage. Projecting vivid images, attitude, sounds, and other sensations, it’s a powerful performance meant to be absorbed by a live audience. The pieces are often thought-provoking, intertwining emotion with current events and hot-topic social issues.

A “Spoken Word Artist” refers to all the Jazz poets, Hip Hop Poets, Dub Poets, Slam Poets, Storytellers and Folk Poets. However, spoken word doesn’t necessarily have to be poetic. It can encompass words, music, theater, fashion, and beat. The innovation is stellar and there are no rules in producing it. Well, except for one: move the audience with a hard-hitting, memorable performance.

Moving the audience is just what Li.P.S of Buffalo (Living Poet Society) intends to do on Friday (11/20) at Shea’s Smith Theater (660 Main Street) at their even “Living Poet Society: Harvest Moon.” Many of the top poets from WNY will bring you a night of spoken word and innovative entertainment.

Recently returning from the National Poetry Slam, in Oakland, CA (where many of these poets along with LIPS represented their cities), LiPS is eager to share their literary and experimental art, some of which is straight from National’s stage. It’s bound to be an experience.

Jarell Mason will be the host. Mason is a local entertainer from Buffalo. He is a singer who performs Jazz and Gospel/Soul music. He has hosted/coordinated events at UB, Buffalo State (SUNY) College, Daemen College, Herbert College, The Tralf Music Hall and the Shea’s Smith Theater. He received a Bachelor’s of Science and Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology from Herbert College. Thereafter, Jerrell went on to achieve his Master’s Degree in Higher Education and Student affair Administration from SUNY Buffalo State. Jerrell currently works at Niagara University as a Residence Director. Jerrell takes pride in staying active and giving back to the community.

The lineup includes traditional Spoken Word Artists alongside three experimental pieces that push traditional boundaries by way of embedding theater and fashion in their words. This lineup includes: Sam Bassam (Ontario, CA), Louise Bradley and Autumn Christine (Jamestown, NY), Bianca L. McGraw (Chicago, IL), Amani Olugbala (Albany, NY), Shaq “AoR” Payne (Rochester, NY); and Buffalo’s very own Marquis “Ten Thousand” Burton (Slam Champion and member of the 2008 Nickel City National Poetry Slam Team), LAZYRUS (ArtVoice Awards Best Poet in Buffalo nominee), Thomas Panzarella and Justin Karcher (winner of the 2015 Just Buffalo Literary Center members’ writing competition). Each of these poets will bring a unique perspective to the Buffalo stage.

In addition, there will be live music during intermission and an opportunity for guests to interact, through creating their own poetry or visual art piece. Seeing that LiPS of Buffalo wants to build a larger awareness and platform for poets, this’ll be the perfect place to experience and get involved with the poetry scene.

Tickets are currently available through—$15 each or $50 for a 4-pack. 4-packs come with preferred seating. You may also email the co-founders, Benjamin Brindise and Irvin Finks, at to receive physical tickets.

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