Salt Lake Community College student RJ Walker has found success in the art of spoken word.
After being disowned for leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Walker went from being homeless to participating in poetry slam competitions all over the country.
“There was a coffee shop I would walk to called Greenhouse Effect,” Walker recalls. “There was an open-mic there and I would tell jokes that I wrote…eventually that evolved into longer character and fiction pieces.”
Walker was eventually invited to his first poetry slam contest and took second place behind Jesse Parent, who Walker says is a “world legend.”
“Poetry and theatre have been an oral art form long before they were written ones,” Walker says.
Walker most recently participated in a poetry slam competition Monday at Wasatch Theatre Company. As far as what is considered spoken word and how it differs from traditional poetry, he says, “Any poem that can be spoken in under three minutes is considered spoken word.”
According to an article in Backstage Magazine, poetry slam has been making a comeback in recent years, particularly with its capacity to provide a platform for diverse groups of people to speak about the current political and social climate.
In addition to poetry slam competitions, Walker is also involved in several theatrical art events.
He directed the play “A Sharp and Infectious Silence” Friday and Saturday at the South City Campus, and will direct another play called “Lord of Misrule,” a 21+ show based on audience suggestions and the 200-year-old tradition of crowning a homeless person the Lord of Misrule during the Christmas season.
Walker plans to continue his career in audio-book narration and his attempts to break into voice acting. He encourages fellow students to drop by poetry slam venues, including Watchtower Café and a new venue at Wasatch Theatre Company, both open to the general public.
Walker gives credit to SLCC faculty for what they’ve done to help him and the increasing number of theatre majors.
“Zac Curtis and Stacey Jensen have been amazing professors,” Walker says. “Zac has done so much work uplifting students and helping them figure out who the hell they are.”
Auditions for Walker’s upcoming production will take place Nov. 3. All proceeds from the play will go toward a fundraiser for The Road Home.