Will Lesbian Slam Poetry Save the World?

lesbian slam poets

Who doesn’t love baring their soul to a crowd of strangers while on a stage? Reenacting my feelings and my experiences at a cafe isn’t my cup of tea (hehe) but watching feelings and experiences similar to mine in a theatrical context is a hobby. Lesbian slam poets don’t just inspire us in our own art, they also radiate catharsis. This is crucial in a world that’s hell-bent on silencing and erasing our lesbian experiences.

We’ve all seen the male version of slam poetry. You know, those ranting “the world sucks for me and this is why” videos. “Women are crazy,” “Actually, the world works like this,” “Check out my car, it has eleventeen pounds of torque after my mods.” Men have lots to say, and whether it’s inspiring or aesthetic seems to be irrelevant.

But slam? Slam is a space for poets, for lesbian poets, to express themselves without the fear of their platform getting hijacked by bros with bad takes.

Without further ado, let’s meet some of the lesbian slam poets changing the game by bringing sexuality and politics to the front.

Kai Davis

 

Prior to her performance of “Ain’t I a Woman”, Kai already sets the tone by explicitly announcing her identities (black, a woman, lesbian). This casual way of introducing intersectionality strategically keeps the audience aware of  oppression based on a web of identities that are far from accepted.  Kai expresses pride and self acceptance that gets interrupted by “some fuckshit” undermining her identity. The way she contextualizes her pieces with personal stories and events amplifies the emotional bond with the listener, since we now are aware of her struggles in the outside world. “Ain’t I a Woman” illustrates the contradictions in identity politics and the patriarchy, as she describes herself as “too black to be a woman, but not man enough to be black.”

Blythe  Baird

Blythe’s pieces cover a range of topics, including experiences with an eating disorder and a strained relationship with her homophobic mother. In “the Lesbian Reevaluates,” Blythe exposes her fears surrounding labels and adopts a confused and disoriented tone, like she’s coming out for the first time. This piece reminds us of the costs of coming out, and the reality that every day we live our lives openly, we’re coming out again. These difficulties surrounding being “the gay friend” with an unsure identity are often not discussed due to stigma surrounding the evolution or adjustment of one’s sexual identity.

Kate Collins

Kate utilizes humor in order to disarm the audience and render the lesbian experience more palpable for the audience. Her radical openness in “So You’re a Lesbian, What Now” about “lesbian porn” being a male invention explicitly subverts the notion that women exist to please men. Her coming out experience, which was positive in the sense that it was eventless (“I was hoping for some drama”), is not often discussed due to the negative experiences being the norm in many places still.

Turning the conception of the lesbian experience as singular and depressing into a more diverse pool of realities and reactions is necessary work, since many of us are slowly dismantling the idea of “the lesbian lifestyle” in order to turn it into “lesbian lifestyles”. Collins reminds us with this personal and humorous piece that your lesbian experience doesn’t have to be tragic. There is joy in being lesbian as well.

Megan Falley

Megan’s conception of coming out as a cyclical experience (in, out and then back in) is an unconventional and intriguing one. In her poem “Coming Out,” she lists examples of heteronormativity and explores its impact on self-expression. She gives the audience an inside look at “how straight the world is.”

Her frustration, fueled by her guilt, passing as a straight woman alienates her from the community at large. She recognizes her passing privilege that serves as a double-edged sword. As she puts it so succinctly: “What keeps me invisible often keeps me safe.” These striking words remind us what is at stake if we don’t act upon the unity and acceptance created when a slam poem is performed. Out in the world, these ideas will sound more revolutionary and threatening to the straight majority.

Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin, lesbian, Jamaican, mother, unapologetic feminist has been tearing up the slam poetry game for decades. She was one of the original writers on Def Poetry Jam, and a veteran of Michfest and OLF. She’s also a playwright, memoirist and storyteller. I dare you to watch her perform and not soak up the courage and passion she drops in every line. It’s fitting she performed at the annual MLK celebration at the Apollo theatre. Because, in the same spirit of collective liberation as King, if Chin had the same platform, she would inspire every woman to have a dream.

So what is the future of lesbian slam poetry? As potential slam poets, you can shape the future of lesbian culture thanks to slam’s accessibility, including financial (you’ll never have to pay more than 5 dollars entrance). You can also watch competitive slam poetry on outlets like YouTube. Will lesbian slam poets change the world? As much as any words ever could. They changed mine.