Difference between traditional poems and Spoken Word Poems

Have you ever read a book that has been made into a movie? If yes, then have you seen the movie after or before reading the book? 

If you have then you would have realized how differently the story gets delivered on a screen than on a piece of paper. Where the book gives a laid back and relaxed kind of experience, the movie will be filled with action scenes. 

Why are we telling this to you?

Because it will help us understand the difference between the traditional form of poetry and spoken word poetry in a more clear manner. 

The general difference between both is that one is written on paper and the other is spoken in front of an audience. You can say that a poem is a collection of spoken or written words that expresses ideas or emotions in a powerfully vivid and imaginative style.

But you already knew this and are trying to understand the distinguishing factor in a better way. 

Well… to help you understand both better, we will compare the difference between the two genres of poetry with the two genres of storytelling. 

After all, poems are also a form of storytelling. 


What is traditional poetry?

When you ask what a poem is, you would probably get answers like “painting in words,” or “a medium for self-expression,” or “a song that rhymes and displays beauty.”

None of this can actually be titled right or wrong.

As mentioned before, traditional poetry is the expression through written words with the use of a distinctive style or rhythm. In simple words, it is expressing your thoughts in a poetic manner on a piece of paper. 

You may already know that there are many kinds of poetry. If you didn’t, here are the most common types:

  1. Blank verse
  2. Rhymed poetry
  3. Free verse
  4. Epics
  5. Narrative poetry
  6. Haiku
  7. Pastoral poetry
  8. Sonnet
  9. Limerick
  10. Lyric Poetry


You will find that many of these can also be used in spoken word poetry, so where’s the difference between them?

Let’s find out…

What is spoken word poetry?

To say that spoken word and traditional poetry are the same is to say that a painting is the same thing as a sculpture. Sure, they both serve the same purpose of expression but they are indeed different.  

Spoken word poetry is the form of poetry that is written to be spoken out loud. In other words, spoken word poems are a form of poetry where the author will present their poem to an audience, or out load, using narration. 

Spoken word poetry is a “catchall” word used to describe any form of poetry that is spoken or narrated out loud. Spoken word poetry include:

  • Stories
  • Poetry readings
  • Jazz poetry 
  • Monologues 
  • Slam poetry 
  • Rap or hip-hop; because they often use rhyming words 
  • Stand-up comedy
  • And many more

As you might have guessed by now, spoken word poetry requires more than just meaningful words. It requires gestures, acting, emotional and impactful delivery of lines, use of music, and even a deep voice like Morgan Freeman.  

Meaning of traditional poetry 

Written poetry, similar to a book, is able to connect the thoughts and feelings of the writer with the reader much stronger than the spoken form of poetry. 

For instance, while reading a novel, sometimes you are able to connect to the exact thought-process of the author. 

Moreover, you can read a book and every time you will find something new to it. A new lesson to be learned, new value, or perhaps even a new meaning to the story. 

Similarly, while reading a written poem, you will find yourself looking for meaning hidden between lines. Every time you read a poem, you will find yourself understanding it more and finding a new meaning to the entire piece. 

The format of the poem also plays a big role. The space between paragraphs indicates that a new verse is starting and with it a new chapter, so to speak. 

Even though traditional poetry can be read out loud, it is not the same as spoken word poetry. If you go to poetry readings, you will find the narrator stop between lines or verses. That time is given so that you can let those words sink in and give them a thought. 

The purpose behind traditional poetry is simple, expression of personal thoughts in the highest artistic manner as possible. 

When you sit down to write a poem, you will find yourself rewriting it and changing the words over and over again. That’s because your focus is to express your thoughts in the most artistic way possible.

You are hoping that your readers understand the meaning behind your words without you throwing them all out there. 

Meaning of the spoken word poetry

The difference between tradition and spoken word is in the way that they are delivered. Traditional poems require the writer to express fully on a paper. Whereas, the spoken word poetry brings the element of delivery with it. 

Think about how a movie is so different from the book that it is based off. The stories are often completely different, right? 

That’s not all of it though…

While watching a movie, you will find yourself to be much more immersed in the story. 

You will be more emotionally involved with a movie scene than the words on a book. Each scene will drive a particular impact on your mind and each dialogue will bring out a certain reaction. 

The same goes for spoken work poetry and traditional poetry. While reading words, you will have much more time to think about and find the meaning behind them. 

However, while attending a spoken word session, you will find yourself to be able to quickly connect with the narrator. You will know exactly what the narrator is saying and will hardly need to put an effort behind visualizing. 

That’s because of the way those lines are being delivered. 

When there’s a break between lines, it is so that you can see the reaction of the audience. Unlike, written poetry, there’s no need to let the words sink in because they are already with you. 


The element of live performance that spoken word poetry brings. The audience will always immediately have the, “Ohh, I feel you…” kind of connection with the spoken words

To conclude,

The meaning behind poetry is simple, expressing one’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings in a personal manner. What makes spoken word poetry different is using these thoughts, emotions, and feelings to provoke a reaction in the audience. 

1 Comment

  1. Belle

    Thank you for the information, it helped me a lot!

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