Hey everyone! Happy Halloween! I hope you all are celebrating however you can within lockdown restrictions, and having a good time. This post has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween, but, um, here you go anyway. I hope you enjoy!
I remember my first open mic. I was twelve years old and, to be totally honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d just started writing poetry about five months before. I remember, my mom came home on day, and told me there was this article in the newspaper, about an open mic starting up in my area. I practised this poem that now, feels kind of awful, but back then was my absolute favourite thing in the world for days, polishing it to what at the time felt like perfection.
I didn’t expect people to like it. But they did. During a time of my life when I felt lost, and aimless, and alone, this room full of strangers cheered me on. I remember, this one lady pulled me aside, and she told me that I was going to make it, and gave me a hug. She was a total stranger, but it meant the world to me.
That was the moment I think I really fell in love with poetry. And, honestly, that night changed my life. I haven’t been to a poetry slam/open mic in a while, but I really miss it. I might go to an online one sometime, I don’t know–but for now, I thought I’d share with you my five favourite slam poems, that I come back to time and time again for inspiration.
“Explaining Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim
Sabrina Benaim is probably one of my favourite poets of all time, and to be honest, her work has gotten me through a lot of not-so-great mental places–and shaped my own style. (She has a Zoom open mic, and I really want to get up the courage to do it, but also, I have anxiety, and just keep putting it off.) I remember, I found this poem right after I’d done that first open mic, and I’d study it for hours, taking note of her delivery, and flow and whatnot. This poem isn’t perfect, and the way she delivers it feels very chaotic and a bit desperate–but I think that’s why it resonates so deeply. You can tell the poem comes from her heart, and that she’s being completely honest and vulnerable.
I hope that my blog can do the same thing that poem did for me, when I first heard it. I hope I can be part of an honest, intimate, and real conversation about mental health issues–and serve as some kind of reminder for the both of us, that things will get better.
Sabrina Benaim has a book too, if you like this poem! I’d highly recommend it; it’s called Depression and Other Magic Tricks and should be available anywhere books are sold.
“To This Day” by Shane Koyczan
This was another one of the poems I absolutely obsessed over back in the day. (A huge shoutout to my eighth grade English teacher, who had us listen to this piece for school–.)
As someone who experienced bullying in the past, and at the time was still processing that experience, this poem home. It made me feel heard, and safe, and understood, and it helped me deal.
Shane Koyczan just has this beautiful, strong voice. His poems are always heartfelt, honest, and real. He just has such an interesting, unique performing style. I don’t know how to describe it, but his work inspires me so much, and is, like, a lot of the reason I started this blog. (Also, the only reason I survived eighth grade.)
Anyhow, what I’m trying to get at here is, if you haven’t heard his work, you should check it out–it’s really good. 🙂
“One Side of an On-Going Dialogue with Sharon, my Therapist” by Desiree Dallagiacomo
This poem is so special to me. I love how it’s delivered; because every time I watch this video, it just pulls you in–makes you feel like you’re sitting down, and talking with a friend. I might not have personally experienced the things she describes, but I can’t help but feel her pain as my own–does that make sense? And that ability poetry has, to immerse you in someone else’s feelings, and allow you to safety feel and empathize–is something I love so much.
The delivery isn’t perfect in the typical sense, and the lines aren’t always “neat” or “clean”–but they’re real, and I think that more than having a perfect poem, that’s what matters. Desiree Dallagiacomo’s slam poems honestly have taught me so much about performing, she’s such a skilled poet.
“Anxiety: A Ghost Story” by Brenna Twohy
This poem is so brilliantly written. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. It starts off so lighthearted and funny, and then it hits you like a punch in the chest, with these raw, beautiful emotions. The flow, the metaphors… from an artistic standpoint alone, it’s gorgeous.
Not only that, but the poet understands exactly what the experience of anxiety is. If you’ve suffered from the condition, there’s no way this poem couldn’t resonate with you.
(Also, there really was something up with the kids in those Goosebumps books.)
“Anxiety Isn’t Cute” by Alyse
I love, love, love this poem–admittedly, I’m biased, since I don’t think it would his as close to home if you don’t have anxiety, but I’m pretty sure most of my audience struggles with some mental health issue or other, so I feel like most of you will understand this experience.
Maybe this is just my experience, but I think, it’s hard to struggle with a mental health issue and not experience someone—whether in real life or in the media—romanticizing your condition. And, eventually, you start to internalize it. This can look like wanting your symptoms to worsen, and making yourself feel worse on purpose, and not seeing your symptoms as all right, fine, even desirable despite the destruction they might cause in your life.
And whenever those habits rest their ugly head, I like to listen to this poem, as a reminder about how absolutely bullshit that is.
Okay! I think that’s enough geeking out about poetry for one night, but I hope you enjoyed, and that you’ll check these poets out. They inspire me so much, and, I don’t know, they all seem like really awesome, kind, strong people.
Over the past year, I’ve lost touch with the reason I fell in love with poetry, and writing in general. But I want to get it back–the kind of excitement I used to have, back when this was just something I did for fun, or to vent on a bad day, on the floor of my bedroom. And somehow, going back to my roots–to these people who I looked up to, two years ago, really helps.
I’ve been thinking about making a lot of changes to this blog of late–I think I’m going to change my URL, and edit the design a bit. I just feel like I’m entering a new phase of my life, and I want to grow, and change, and learn how to be brave again–and if I’m going to do those things, I need this blog to change with me. Does that make sense?
Lots of love,