I am OBSESSED with poetry.
Often times you can find me on a constant loop of watching YouTube videos of people performing their poetry (which I am currently doing as I try to find a poem to talk about in this blog post). I'm a collector of sorts. I love everything from a structured, minimalist haiku to a free-flowing, uninhibited slam poem. All of it entices me. And if you made me choose just one to talk about, I think the sensation would be comparable to making a mother choose her favorite child.
I love written poetry and spoken word for different reasons. Written poetry is something that could be hung in a museum. There is so much you could play with: style, form, and even the way you present it on the page. You can create anything from standard Shakespearean sonnets to those acrostic poems we all made in elementary school. I could go on and on about different amazingly talented poets who blow you away with poems that barely take up a quarter of a page, like Rupi Kaur or Lang Leav. But instead, I'll choose to share with you one of my favorite written poems, "Letter from the First Woman I Tried to Love" by Megan Falley.
"I promised myself if I won the staring contest,
I would kiss you. But I blinked first,
and kissed you anyway.
The mosquitos were lucky we were shy
in that garden, they feasted on the two girls
pretending not to know why they were there.
They liked your blood better.
I knew you were out of my league
but you threw me the ball all summer.
Was it because you knew
I couldn't hurt you?
Because I had air-conditioning
and a first-aid kit and a guitar I could make sing
your name like a rescued dog?
You always showed up with a bottle of wine
or honey whiskey and it took me too long
to see you needed to be drunk
to touch or be touched.
I tried not to let it kill me,
which I learned from watching you,
you who licked the salt from your wounds
and sucked down tequila. Your own mouth,
But in the morning you'd apologize
by driving me to the river, or splitting
an avocado and giving me
the bigger half,
and I told myself you'd learn
to love me, and I never forgave you
for how close you might have come
if we had met in a different year,
in different bodies.
I think there's a difference
between being a bad person
and being bad at being a person,
and I think you know
which one you are."
It has always been difficult to explain why exactly I love a poem. If I am being honest, I found this poem at the right time. When I read it, I didn't feel so alone in my situation. I think this poem so accurately describes being in love with a person who is not yet in love with themselves. You find yourself in the midst of two heartbreaks: heartbroken the person you love cannot see how wonderful they are and heartbroken that that means they can never love you the way you want to be loved. My favorite lines are "I think there's a difference/between being a bad person/and being bad at being a person,/and I think you know/which one you are." It is something that resonated with me from the very first time I read this poem. I honestly think it's one of the most beautiful lines I've ever read.
In contrast, spoken word is fiery and passionate: the true culmination of poetry and the stage. You can always feel intense energy from every poetry slam you walk by. The performer has crafted her soul into a three minute masterpiece and the audience is waiting with open arms to receive what she has chosen to share.
My favorite slam poem is called "Explaining Depression to My Mother" by Sabrina Benaim. I cry every time I listen to it. I have never found something that so vividly describes explaining depression to someone who does not have depression. I've never found a piece of art that feels like it's been ripped out of my chest and presented by someone else.
"Explaining Depression to My Mother" by Sabrina Benaim
Another one of my favorite slam poems is by Megan Falley, as well. It is called "Fat Girl". I think that reading her poetry and listening to her slam poem highlight the true differences between the two forms. Each poem moves the observers in different ways. I think it's a true gift to be able to distinguish what writing style translates better on a page versus a performance.
"Fat Girl" by Megan Falley
The last slam poem I'll share with you is a poem written by the Youth Poet Laureate of 2015, Crystal Valentine. Her poetry and performance are both so amazing! I feel that her poetry is very indicative of the poetry culture that I have surrounded myself with. What I love the most about her poetry is the way she discusses her experience as a black woman and speaks out against issues like racism and misogyny. This is one of my favorite pieces by her: "Crystal Gets Taken in for Interrogation after Assassinating Donald Trump". I think the reason I love it is pretty self explanatory.
"Crystal Gets Taken in for Interrogation after Assassinating Donald Trump" by Crystal Valentine
When people say they don't like poetry, I get really confused. That's like saying you don't like movies or music. There are so many different kinds of poetry that it doesn't make sense to just shun every poem all together just because you don't like Shakespeare's sonnets.
My favorite thing about all forms of poetry is that they are condensed pieces of a poet's soul. Poems can be a shoulder to cry on and they can also be a weapon against important societal issues that often get swept under the rug. I like thinking that it only takes a few words to start a revolution.
I hope that my post (as long as it is) has shown you different kinds of poetry that you've never experienced before. I also hope that I don't get in too much trouble for giving you four poems of the week!