In an attempt to capture the essence of the poetry, as well as the poets who define the streets of New York, Spitting Ink follows eight spoken word artists as they traverse the streets, perform in situ, and talk about their motivation to write.
In the United States, a poetry subculture has grown up around a group of young, spoken-word artists. Although the work they produce is widely diverse, it tends to have a strong affinity with contemporary social reality and urban culture. The poets’ work is not aimed at a mass audience, and they perform in small clubs. Each of them has found his or her own way to focus the power of the spoken word. Spitting Ink is a portrait of some of these artists. Interviews and live performances are interspersed with images of the streets of New York — not the orderly, well-to-do neighborhoods, but their lively and sometimes dilapidated backstreet counterparts, with their graffiti-covered walls, subway trains, and bars. Spoken-word artist Mike Ladd speaks about this poetry’s origins and background (its roots in gospel and other forms) and about how it reached a turning point with the arrival of rap. Beau Sia creates poetry both to impress the girls and to rebut prejudices about his Asiatic roots; Celena Glenn only writes once a year, when her head is full to overflowing and dozens of poems suddenly stream out.