Poetry: Spoken Word

Jeanette Beebe Poetry Reading Java Joes Des Moines Iowa

At age 15, Jeanette founded Moving ForWords Productions, a project inspired by her hometown poetry slam community in Des Moines, Iowa. Its mission was to use spoken word to open up conversations about gender, on and off the stage. 

As a teen, she hopped on the Midwest poetry slam circuit. She's shared the stage with 'Slam Papi' Marc 'So What' Smith (Chicago), Mighty Mike McGee (Omaha), and Shane Koyczan (Des Moines). With the help of a Kinko's copier, she published four slam poetry chapbooksWry Rhetoric (2004), Beyond Balloon Animals (2005), Checking In (2006), and Double Digits on Luin (2007). She also contributed to the Des Moines slam's Circus Diem zine, and co-edited Prism Magazine at Princeton University.

Jeanette worked with the Minnesota Spoken Word Association and the Juno Collective to form "Teens Rock the Mic", an outgrowth of the Youth Speaks network. As a member of the inaugural Minneapolis team (out of 600 auditioning poets), she helped raise $8,000 to compete in the 2005 International Youth Poetry Slam Championships in San Francisco. "Teens Rock the Mic" raised $20,000 to launch and sustain "Quest for the Voice", a spoken word poetry series for local youth.

"Quest for the Voice" (now "Be Heard MN") was designed to build on the "Teens Rock the Mic" tradition: to select a six-poet Twin Cities team to participate in the Youth Speaks Brave New Voices Festival, which attracts over 500 teen poets each year for a week of workshops and community building. This work was featured in Melissa Borgmann's Literacy Tools in the Classroom: Teaching Through Critical Inquiry, Grades 5–12 (National Writing Project + Teachers College). Twin Cities' PBS produced a documentary on "Quest for the Voice" (in 2008), and the group was also featured on the radio and web by Minnesota Public Radio.

At Princeton, her spoken word poem "Underneath Unum" won Mathey College's "Reflections on Diversity" contest. In February 2007, she was invited to perform "Boat on the Border" in This is Princeton, an arts showcase at Richardson Auditorium. It was later published in the Journal of Religious Life in February 2009; that year, she was also awarded a grant to pursue her spoken word work by the Peter B. Lewis Summer Fund. In February 2012, Jeanette delivered a poem at "Performing the Sacred", which was held in the cavernous acoustics of the University chapel. In October 2010, she won First Prize ($500) for performing spoken word at Rider University's "On Fire" poetry slam.

Jeanette reading from  Circus Diem , Ames, Iowa. (2008)

Jeanette reading from Circus Diem, Ames, Iowa. (2008)


— Diablo Cody, Minneapolis City Pages

"Slammed!", an essay published in  Imagine  magazine, Johns Hopkins University. (2005)

"Slammed!", an essay published in Imagine magazine, Johns Hopkins University. (2005)

Jeanette's first spoken word performance at Princeton University. (2006)

Jeanette's first spoken word performance at Princeton University. (2006)

"A young woman of vision." — Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Founder, The Juno Collective

"Bright, smooth, woah." — Marc 'So What' Smith, Founder of the Poetry Slam (Green Mill Bar, Chicago)

"I've heard outstanding praises of [her] talents (and witnessed it myself) ...  The real purpose of the event is to show how amazing our whole community is outside the classroom, so I can't think of a more awesome person to ask to perform." Daphra A. Holder '07, organizer of "This is Princeton" showcase, Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University

"Both brave and bold." — Jordan A. Bubin '09, Princeton University

"[The] poem says EVERYTHING I try to communicate in two classes. It is great. [...] So many great lines." Dr. Kathryn Bell McKenzie, who taught "Underneath Unum" poem (broadcast on KEOS-Touchstone Radio) in two doctoral classes at Texas A&M University