P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society) poster

In ‘P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society)’, Houston’s spoken word artists present the immeasurable value of this art scene.

Directed by: Mikell Limbrick.

Country: United States.

Genre: Documentary.

Running time: 134 minutes.


One of the things I admired the most when checking out the interviews being shown in P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society), was a common characteristic of the subjects: Once they started, and most of them were very young when they did, they simply could not stop. Talk about aiming high from a very young age. These are the artists whose expression goes way beyond a rap rhyme, or a basic statement about reality. They put together poems that achieve celebration. And these poems don’t linger in the romantic setting you may associate the word “poetry” with. That would be too basic.

In Houston’s underground art scene, there is a group of talented artists who express themselves in a stage. No gimmicks, no special effects, no background. Their words are bullets of social disclosure, a fundamental human trait in the form of an art that has been long forgotten. Until now.

Discovering poignant and relevant words of truth

The documentary P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society) takes us through a diverse group of poets who decided to up the ante in the community they belong to. They are African American artists who speak their own truth in a language that not everybody dominates and yet it can impact with a meaningful sharpness. This is their story, told by themselves. Through several testimonies we become to know their reasons, their triumphs and failures. This massive document serves a perfect opportunity to become immersed in a culture most of us didn’t know.

It’s not street art. It’s words told through an aggressive pace and joyous setting. As one of them says, not everyone gets their art, but if at least one heart is touched, then the job is done.

The diversity of statements prevents it from being boring

This collection of interviews runs for more than two hours. Its subject can get lost as no introductions are made and we are simply released in this artistic setting without much knowledge. It’s bold move for those behind the cameras because suppositions are always risky. If you don’t care about this community and/or different types of art, maybe this is not your kind of film.

Personally, I was enthralled by how diverse the environment in this small group is. Kudos to the director and producer for compiling what could be the most relevant selection. I wonder if any were left out for P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society) and why.

A great opportunity to explore

If you’re looking to extend your vision about art, and its variants, spoken word and poetry could be a good choice. The documentary is a valid opportunity to know the basics. Yes, I’m not referring to “how”, but to “whom”. This is where it all begins. A different way to exclaim rants about justice, race topics, feminism and struggle. It will get to you, if you must linger long enough to understand a different form of expression.

Hits Misses

– The revelatory aspect of Houston’s art scene is eye opening. I’m one of those who must admit knowing nothing about the spoken word artists in Texas.

– It feels a like a raw statement of something we’ve heard before but thrown at us through a romantic vehicle of love and perseverance.

– Those unfamiliar with types of art that are definitely not mainstream will feel uninterested. Clearly, the film is made only for a certain type of audience.

– The format is repetitive and overlong. Each testimony is noteworthy but it’s still more than two hours of similar scenes.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

A trailer

With information from IMDB, YouTube.

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