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Airman expresses self through spoken-word poetry

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

"Roses are red. Violets are blue. Sugar is sweet and so are you." One might have heard poems similar to this before, but there is another form of poetry gaining popularity amongst youth around the world.

Spoken-word is a form of poetry that expresses thoughts through rhyme, music, dance and theater. For one Airman, it's a way to express himself and influence the world around him in a positive way.

"Spoken-word is a platform," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Malone, 56th Medical Support Squadron medical laboratory apprentice. "It's not the poetry you write, put in a book and sell. It's revolutionary. It's a movement."

Spoken-word poetry dates back to ancient Greece when orators used poetry to engage in political debates. It traces its modern roots to the Harlem Renaissance and musicians of the 1960s who used poetry to bring political awareness to the African-American Civil Rights Movement."

Malone first began writing poetry as a child. He looked up to his older brother and tried to do everything he did.

"He would write poems to girls and leave them on the computer," he said. "I would read them and try the same thing. I looked up to him as a role model, so whatever he was doing; I was trying to do the same."

His love for poetry led him to YouTube, where he discovered spoken-word poetry. From there, he began writing poems with meaning about his experiences and those of others.

"I started looking at YouTube videos online of youth poets and people in my age group and saw people standing up for something they believed and writing about it," Malone said. "Poets from Chicago were talking about inner city struggles and people from Los Angeles and New York were talking about racism and politics."

Malone began performing in talent shows during his senior year of high school, and after he graduated, he would go to other high schools and perform. The more he performed, the more he appreciated the art form and saw others liked it too.

"I was under the impression people really didn't like poetry," Malone said. "They think it sounds nice, but poetry is underappreciated. From people's facial expressions, I began to see that people actually liked poetry."

Malone was raised in a single-parent household and had a hard time growing up with four brothers, often moving from house to house. Through spoken-word, he began to see the world and his struggles from a different perspective.

"Everyone has their own story," Malone said. "You can't really say one person has it worse than another. You can, but in that person's mind, at that moment, they probably think nobody has it worse than them."

Poetry is a way for Malone to vent and talk about his feelings when nobody else is around. More importantly, it is a platform to make a difference in people's lives.

"I post videos to my YouTube account and people tell me they really like my poems," he said. "It's crazy somebody in another part of the world has gone through the same struggles as me. I thought I was the only one who was feeling like that. If one person can relate to what I'm writing about, then I feel I've done a good job."

Malone performed a piece about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and his leaders liked it so much, he was asked to perform it at the group and wing levels. Eventually he was asked to record it with music.

If approved, his spoken-word presentation will be sent to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to see.

Airman 1st Class Austin Shrewsbury, 56th Medical Support Squadron medical laboratory apprentice, played guitar for Malone's presentation and has since acquired a new-found appreciation for Malone's poetry and spoken-word.

"The first time he told me he did spoken-word, I thought, 'That's kind of lame,' so I just dismissed it altogether," Shrewsbury said. "He then told me he had videos on YouTube, so I looked it up and saw it wasn't just words. I could see the emotion in his poetry. Watching him, it's like he's in another world, and you get to glimpse it. It's awesome."
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