The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words




The first time I was exposed to spoken word poetry, I was a sophomore in high school. It was a strike of pure luck. My first day back at school after months of intensive rehabilitation for mental and physical health issues, a special event called Writers Week was happening. I sulked into the auditorium with my English class to see the poet who would later become my mentor/camp counselor/big sister, Sierra DeMulder, do spoken word. I was mesmerized by her performance. She had this line addressing anorexia, “Your body is not a temple. Your body is the house you grew up in” that shook my whole world. The past few months, I had completely bullshitted my way through treatment and planned to go back to starving myself the second I was discharged. But hearing that poem influenced me to take recovery seriously. And I did, successfully- all because of a poem. To this day, I firmly believe in poetry as a radical act of healing.

I didn’t actually start writing until the summer going into my senior year of high school. After Writers Week, I had watched some spoken word videos online, followed some poetry blogs, but that was the extent of it for several years up until the catalyst of my writing career: Slam Camp. Slam Camp is the home of my very first poem. Being there taught me to be my most authentic self, and that my experiences as a young person were not insignificant. It was the catalyst of my writing career. Later that summer, I went to the National Poetry Slam in Boston as a clueless spectator and left with the knowledge that I had to follow the poetry. I was captivated by the magic and empathy of the community atmosphere. The kind and protective “mama bear” attitude the adult poets had towards me. The beautiful words. At 16, I desperately wanted something to pray to. I began to believe in poetry more than I ever believed in any God. I still do.

Senior year, everything skyrocketed. I started writing every day and using Tumblr as a platform to post my work during national poetry month. I got involved in the Chicago slam scene- going to open mics, Young Chicago Authors, almost every venue that would allow a 17-year-old. There was only one all-ages slam in Chicago, Lethal Poetry: my “slamily.” I tried out for their national team and made it, becoming the youngest competitor at the 2014 National Poetry Slam. I chose to attend college in the Twin Cities because it seemed like the place to be to pursue spoken word. Shortly after, my poem Girl Code 101 went viral and I was lucky enough to get a book deal with Where Are You Press, who is putting out my first book GIVE ME A GOD I CAN RELATE TO this summer. Since poetry found me, I haven’t stopped feeling lucky.

Now, I don’t write everyday, but it is definitely the main focus of my life. I try to write what I looked for but could never find in the books I read growing up- an authentic commentary on high school, empowered teenage girls, etc. I try to interpret, analyze, and articulate the world around me to the best of my ability, because I am terrified of history happening without me. I’m terrified of all these stories getting lost or forgotten. Additionally, I always have to work through my feelings before I can act, so I use poetry as a way to process those feelings in a productive way. I used to carry around everything that has ever happened to me. I desperately held onto all my experiences at all times, even the heaviest ones. Poetry gave me a place to put them down.
Find out more about Blythe Baird by clicking here. 

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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