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Spit is a documentary about competitive performance poetry called slam. Here's how slam works: several poets each perform a piece, and then they're judged by five randomly-selected audience members.

However, these aren't anthologized poems about rainbows and butterflies. Today's spoken word is heavily influenced by hip-hop and the struggles of urban youth.

Spit introduces us to four of these youths: Al B Back and Oveous Maximus from New York, and Mollie Angelheart and Shihan Van Clief from California.

Interviews with legendary figures such as Nikki Giovanni, The Last Poets and Russell Simmons offer historical context to spoken word poetry. However, the most poignant scenes of the film occur during interviews with the four young poets.

As they make their way to the National Poetry Slam Competition, we learn about each poet's unique struggle and the inspiration behind his or her words. Spit reaches its climax at the competition, and we get a glimpse of the genuine passion that fuels spoken word.

In today's bling-obsessed culture, Spit provides an honest and refreshing change of pace. There's hope for us yet.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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