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As a teen, Amena Brown listened to hip-hop and dreamed of being the next Lauryn Hill; she even had a stage name, "Teknique." But she never could quite make her rhymes mesh with the beat and the bars of the music, so she turned to spoken word poetry instead. Maybe she couldn't emcee, but when she took the stage for a poetry slam, Amena Brown was the bomb.

Today, her inspiring presentations are highly sought by churches and conferences (Catalyst, RightNow, Thirsty, and the National Youth Workers Convention, to name a few). In faith-based settings, Brown recites one- to four-minute poems with titles such as "Resurrection," "He Is Here," "Masterpiece," and "In the Beginning." In the secular setting of an open-mic poetry slam—often in Atlanta, where she lives—she'll perform rhymes like "First Crush," "Stupid Girl," and "A Few Good Men." All are delivered with passion, precision, and lively wordplay.

Brown believes the church is catching on to spoken word poetry. "More people are seeing how the spoken word form can articulate a message or make a point in a different way from a speaker or a song. And there are more poets performing God-ward content."

Question & Answer

You majored in English at Spelman College, right?

Yes. At first I thought about becoming a preacher. But I got into poetry, and wanted to get my MFA in poetry. I was denied at all three schools I applied to. At first I was angry at God, but then I started doing more with spoken word. It wasn't my plan, but it definitely was God's.

Why spoken word poems?

For a long time, I didn't want to perform my own poems. I would enter speech competitions, memorizing things by Maya Angelou or James Weldon Johnson, but I never won. My mom thought I should perform my own poems, ...

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April 2011

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