Often times you either love slam poetry or you don’t. Once finding myself a member of the latter group, I tweeted about a now ex-girlfriend saying, “She asked if we could see slam poetry, I asked if we could see other people.” Since then, I have seen the error of my ways and can promise you that my being an asshole is not why we broke up. It was actually because two of my favorite pasttimes are openly sobbing and feelings, which very much explains my affinity for getting lost in spoken word k-holes on Upworthy. Between there and YouTube, I’ve found a surplus of affecting and talented poets, storytellers and spoken word artists, many of which are not nationally known, but by golly, should be. Here are just a few amazingly talented queer spoken word artists; please join me in fawning over their talent.
According to Facebook, Dia Davina is a “feminist, queer, gender-fucky, consent-activist pumpkin pie maker extraordinaire,” loosely defined as your newest poetry crush. Dia fell deeply in love with poetry after attending their first slam in October 2012 and has since won fourth place in the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Championship and third in the Women of the World Poetry Slam Playoffs this past January. With a tongue-in-cheek delivery and affinity for bowties, I recommend checking out their poems “U-Haul” and “The Polyamorous Mating Habits of the North American Red Squirrel.”
Andy Karol got her start in poetry after winning an impromptu “love poem” contest at the legendary Green Mill in Chicago, the birthplace of slam poetry. While her work often digs into extremely personal territory, often touching on struggles with depression/suicide, divorce, failed love relationships, coming out as queer during a heterosexual marriage, gender roles, and parenting, her work emphasizes strength, resilience and perseverance. She just released her first chapbook, Fail-Safe, this spring.
Kai Davis is a writer and performer from Philadelphia. Her work tends to focus on women’s issues, LGBT identity, and the complexities of race in America however, her more personal work centers heavily on relationships and how they affect who we are and how we love. Kai is The 2011 National Brave New Voices Grand Slam Poetry Champion and has been the second ranked Youth Speaks Individual Slam Poet in the nation.
Denice Frohman is an award-winning poet and educator, whose work explores the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and the “in-betweeness” that exists in us all. She is the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, 2014 CantoMundo Fellow, 2013 Hispanic Choice Award, and 2012 Leeway Transformation Award recipient. Her poem “Dear Straight People” went viral and has over 1 million views on YouTube.
Ollie Renee Schminkey is a genderqueer poet/activist who is the director of the Macalester Poetry Slam and the founder of Well-Placed Commas, a weekly poetry workshop in the Twin Cities area. Frank in content and brazen in their delivery, they released a chapbook, The Taste of Iron, and will be a part of Andrea Gibson’s upcoming anthology, We Will Be Shelter, to be released Sept 15, 2014.
Anis Gisele is a queer spoken word artist who is originally from Manila, Philippines and currently lives in Seattle. She has been featured at the Spenard Jazz Festival, Ladies First, and the Bent Mentor Showcase, as well as numerous classrooms, community workshops, and private events. Her work has previously appeared on Black Girl Dangerous and Another Passion. She is currently working on her first novel.
Hailing from Silver Spring, MD but living in Brooklyn, Joanna Hoffman has been on National Poetry Slam teams that ranked fouth in the nation, represented Baltimore in the Individual World Poetry Slam and placed within the top 10 in the Women of the World Poetry Slam, National Poetry Slam, and Individual World Poetry Slam. She is the 2012 Champion of Capturing Fire, the queer international poetry competition. Her full-length book of poetry was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in August 2013, has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, and is listed on the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow list for 2013.
Floyd VB is a queer spoken word artist from Vancouver BC who once won the annual Nerd Slam at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. Floyd’s work tackles the complexities of gender identity and love, which landed them on Xtra!‘s 2013 Top 30 Under 30 list celebrating BC’s best and brightest young queer leaders. Currently, Floyd is part of an artistic collaboration called Alien Sex, which ”fearlessly explores the strange, beautiful, and sometimes inexplicable territory of human sexuality.”
A Detroit, MI native, Natasha “T” Miller has been a Women of The World Poetry Slam top five finalist three times, once ranking as high as the third female slam poet in the world. She has produced the popular “It’s Not About You” Poetry Slam Series and started her own publishing company, All I Wanna Say Publishing. Since then, she has published Dream of a Beginner, an anthology of quotes and “Coming Out of Nowhere,” where she explores opinions on issues surrounding being gay through social networking sites.
Living in Vancouver, BC, Hannah Johnson originally trained in acting before switching into playwriting. Having written as a child, and finding her voice via teen angst, she officially jumped into poetry after failing into a rabbit hole of Mos Def on YouTube. Once writing more traditional poetry, Hannah fell in love with slam poetry and came in second place in the Women of the World Poetry Slam Playoffs this past January.