Carlye Arden: Speaking Truth

(Originally posted on The Sojourn’s website on December 5, 2014)

Anyone who attended the Gungor concert, Surge or chapel last week knows who Carlye Arden (so) is. But students may be confused on what she was actually doing.

Spoken word, according to Arden, is “performance poetry.” The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s website says spoken word is “poetry written on a page but performed for an audience” and involves rhythm, wordplay, rhymes, slang and more.

Arden began writing spoken word during her senior year of high school, when she was questioning life and asking God lots of questions.

“I remember I would think so hard about things, and I didn’t know how to release, and so I would just write … whatever came out of my brain,” Arden said.

When she wrote her first piece, she did not know it was considered spoken word until she read it out loud to her friend, who encouraged her to perform it in front of people. The first time she performed was the summer before her freshman year of college at the Bible camp where she worked.

“[My friend, Daniel,] pushed me to read in front of a crowd, and from reading that one piece … I started writing more spoken word pieces,” said Arden. “It wasn’t until this year that I called myself a spoken word artist.”

Arden said she is unsure how people found out about her talent, but this school year she has been able to perform at multiple venues. Every time she performs, she writes a new piece and never wants to repeat one.

After the chapel with speaker Karolina Goncharenko (sr), Arden received lots of positive feedback. Many students complimented her during her McConn shift after the chapel.

“I have had an overwhelming amount of encouragement,” Arden said. “People were constantly coming up to me. … I was overwhelmed. … I left that shift thinking, ‘I am so tired!’”

Sometimes when she is sitting and doing her homework, she will feel God pointing out someone to her and telling her to write a poem for them. She said she listens to what God “prompts” her to write about the person and shares it with them afterward. There will be times when she is walking back to her dorm, and she thinks, “Yeah, I am feeling a spoken word piece tonight.”

“I love the writing process,” she said. “It is a time where I can be super honest with the Lord and write whatever I am thinking and He teaches me. If I am wrestling with something … He will bring the answer.”

Though Arden comes off as confident on stage, she says she can get pretty nervous, especially when she has to sing.

“With [spoken word], I am pretty insecure about it. Every time I perform, I have to step out of my comfort zone,” said Arden. “The chapel for Karolina, I almost threw up beforehand because I had to sing in the piece that I wrote and singing is one of my biggest insecurities. … But it’s fine, I am working through it; the Lord is working on my heart and every time I perform I become more comfortable with it. But at the same time I know I am no Alicia Keys.”

Arden also would like to dispel the rumor people have spread about her having a record deal. She is working on creating an EP and hopes it can sound like the songs she performed for the Gungor concert. At that performance, she played with Alex Lynch (sr), Kelsey Gilles (s0) and Jenn Weidman (sr). They sang, rapped, played instruments and performed spoken word.

Arden plans to drop out of school and pursue her music full-time as she also wants to become a female rapper. This past summer, she was offered a couple of opportunities to perform but had to decline due to school.

“[I want] to be able to get on stage without anything to prove, without having to be promiscuous … and speak truth,” Arden said. “Being an artist who is a Christian but not a Christian artist is something that is super appealing to me.”

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