could be a poet?
will show it!
Poetry is a mystical magical place where the creative spirit visits you and washes you over with rhyme and verse. Have you ever read a poem, even if it’s just a few lines, that took you to a higher level? Poetry can instill hope, transform perspectives, even foster revolution.
There’s a super cool restaurant in Washington, DC, called Busboys and Poets. The restaurant is named after Langston Hughes, one of the most influential artists of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. The restaurant is a tasty place to eat and also a social change-minded establishment founded specifically as a gathering place for activists, artists, writers, and others, and Hughes is its namesake because he was once a busboy at the Wardman Hotel before gaining recognition as a poet.
How many busbois and busgrrls and buspeoples think about writing poems as an outlet or to inspire change? How many of us have been told that we’re not poets? Or that poetry can’t shape or change society?
Poetry has been a revolutionary force in changing our world. Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, Robert Hayden, Dylan Thomas, Cherríe Moraga, and a thousand other poets have given voice to experiences of identity, injustice, and life itself that have allowed others to see themselves reflected in their words and also changed hearts for the better. Trace Peterson is an amazing trans poet who is working to increase transgender representation in poetry. She teaches a poetry class about trans poets and poetry at Hunter College, and has authored several books on poetry and the trans community, including Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.
Poetry is also an outlet for many of us to express our trauma, hardships, and struggles as well as love, growth, spiritual awakenings, and inner peace. Many transgender survivors of sexual violence have experienced trauma, whether from the sexual violence itself and/or from other experiences, and have utilized poetry as an outlet for emotions around this trauma. The National Association for Poetry Therapy, which has an awesome resource list as well as something super fun called their Museletter, promotes poetry as a tool for healing and personal growth.
Give poetry or spoken word a try
There are lots of different ways to be a poet. Maybe written poetry isn’t really your thing but you really like spoken word and slam poetry. There are many trans spoken word and slam poets. For example, Lee Mokobe is a slam poet who uses spoken word to talk about what it is like to be transgender. Other fabulous trans spoken word and slam poets include Kit Yan, Christine Howey, and the ten kick-ass slam poets featured here. Button Poetry is a great place to get started if you’d like to watch some videos and try it for yourself. There are also great tumblrs as well as tips on how to give poetry a try.
“Blackout poetry”: A great way to get started
Blackout poetry is a cheap and easy way to get a feel for finding your voice. Here’s how it works:
- Find a magazine, newspaper, cereal box, used book, or basically anything that has pre-typed words on it.
- Circle or otherwise mark the words that speak to you at the moment. You can think about this for a long time or just a little time; it’s up to you.
- Then try to connect the words on the page into some kind of sentence or meaningful phrase.
- Once you’ve done that, color out the rest of the words on the page.
- You can color out the other words in really creative ways—a simple Google or Pinterest search will give you tons of ideas.
This kind of poetry is wonderful because it’s not expensive and you can carry it with you anywhere. Any book or magazine will do. Blackout poetry is also great because it takes the pressure of off you to find your own words, which isn’t always easy to do if you’re having a bad day or have been triggered.
Check out the activity from our Artist’s Life zine for more examples (link to zine online and/or include the activity from the zine at the bottom of this blog’s post), or find inspiration in these great resources:
- “Bodymap” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, disabled, femme of color who creates performance art, poetry, and writings on survivorhood, disability justice, transformative justice, and other topics.
- Poetry Soup’s Transgender Poems List
Poetry Soup is a great website to find just about anything related to poetry and has an awesome list of poems by and for the transgender community.
- Vetch: A Magazine of Trans Poetry and Poetics
Started in 2015, Vetch is the first-ever journal of poetry solely by trans authors, and it’s absolutely free.
Founded in 2013, THEM is the nation’s first trans literary journal.
- Mini-Poetry Workshop
This article has a great poetry activity embedded in it to help inspire you in ways that are more structured.
- “Queer Poets on the Poems that Changed their Lives”
This article from the Academy of American Poets features ten LGBTQ poets on the poetic sources of their own inspiration.
Audre Lorde wrote: “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. … Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”
How will you use poetry to give name to the nameless and manifest change, resistance, and resilience in your life?