Poet provides a dreamy, theatrical performance between serious anecdotes and jokes

Buddy Wakefield (Photo courtesy of Carol Hogan)
Buddy Wakefield left a career in business 14 years ago to pursue spoken word poetry. (Photo courtesy of Carol Hogan)

The blue lighting and music playing in the background gave Valley Youth Theatre a dreamy, theatrical feel for Buddy Wakefield’s performance Thursday night. The event was filled with a diverse group of people of various ages.

There was excited chatter, a buzz of anticipation for three-time world spoken word champion Buddy Wakefield to take the stage.

“I’ve waited all year to introduce Buddy Wakefield,” said Carol Hogan, the president of the Arizona State Poetry Society and the organizer behind Wakefield’s performance.

Wakefield, in a mint green sweater with a pelican on it, looked like no ordinary performer. His unpredictability was his main asset as he jumped seamlessly from being serious to making jokes on stage. He used different tones of voice and showed his mastery for the performance side of spoken word through hand gestures and facial expressions.

A true master of the stage, Wakefield drew his audience in by peppering his performance with little anecdotes and bits of humor.

Wakefield started on the road to becoming a world champion in the spring of 2001, when he left his position at a biomedical firm in Washington. He sold or gave away everything he owned and set out on tour through North American poetry venues.

While his professional career in writing didn’t begin until later, Wakefield first started writing as a seventh grader.

“No one ever forced me to do it. Some people love sports, some people love piano — I love writing,” he said.

Wakefield jokingly said he began performing his poetry when he found out it was something he could do without torturing people with his singing and guitar playing.

His poetry is “constantly changing,” Wakefield said, but that he still tries to keep it “timeless and relevant.”

“I try to speak to a universal voice,” he said.

Wakefield, who is a one-man operation, manages to juggle interviews, driving, shows and merchandise.

“I do it all,” he said, adding that he, “just hadn’t taken his hand off the controls yet” but he’d be “happy to someday.”

Wakefield is currently an author at Write Bloody Publishing, with his books published internationally and his work used to win multiple national collegiate-debate competitions. While he would always remain a writer and a spoken word artist, Wakefield said he would someday like to teach in schools or alternative education.

Hogan spoke highly of Wakefield’s work.

“This is spoken word, not slam,” she said. “This is true communication.”

This spoken word event was the first of its kind to be hosted at Valley Youth Theater, which normally holds plays and musicals.

Local poet and educator Myrlin Hepworth opened for Wakefield. He touched on topics like racism and love, through a quiet, passionate performance

Staying attune to social issues such as those discussed in his poems is one of the obstacles that he faces as a performance artist.

“The challenge is you want to stay connected to all levels of people.” He said.

Evan O’Shea, 20, attended the event after seeing it on Facebook and enjoyed Wakefield’s candor and tone.

“I think he’s honest, and really funny.” O’Shea said

Maria Diaz, 22, also expressed her enthusiasm about Wakefield’s standout style.

“He has a really unique voice to anything that he writes, and his performances themselves tend to be really explosive, so that makes him really interesting to watch,” she said. “You can tell that he’s genuinely passionate about what he’s doing.”

Contact the reporter at syong2@asu.edu