Spoken word is the magical love child of theater and poetry. For decades, queer people have used it as an outlet for expressing their identities. Here are the smoothest LGBT wordsmiths currently taking the stage.
Joy Young is a radical, nonbinary, transgressive spoken word poet based in Phoenix, Arizona – probably the only one in that state. Joy believes that personal narratives are the driving force for social change. Outside of poetry, their interests include juggling fire, juggling things that aren’t on fire, postmodern theory and being a circus poet.
Poem to Check Out: “Unbuttoning My Boy Shirt”
Best lines: “My life has felt like I’m doing the Hokey Pokey / while everyone else just dances to the tune / of what it means to be a man or a woman.”
Janani Balasubramanian is a South Asian spoken word poet, a performance artist and a destroyer of colonialism. When they’re not writing about empire and ancestry, they’re working on a science fiction novel called H. They perform solo and in the group Dark Matter.
Poem to Check Out: A Love Story Janani Balasubramanian
Best lines: “This is the way of things / Sometimes I panic when I look at sunsets / Like I loved the sky so much, I tore it open, and it bled / This is the way of things.”
Kai Davis is a queer woman of color and a spoken word powerhouse based in Philadelphia. She’s won multiple international grand slam poetry competitions, and currently tours the country performing. Her work focuses on race, gender, sexuality and how all three identities come together. She’s written on everything from the birth of racism to the death of Meek Mill.
Poem to Check Out: I Look Like || Spoken Word by Kai Davis
Best lines: “You look at me like I’m not supposed to be standing here next to you / Like we’re in the same class but your idea of advanced is too advanced and my mind can’t match you / I think it’s my vernacular / How I got half the consonants and twice the apostrophes so my philosophy can’t be valid.”
Anis Gisele is always writing. She placed in the Women of the World Poetry Slam, National Poetry Slam, and Individual Poetry Slam, and won Capturing Fire, a global queer poetry competition. She published a full-length poetry book in 2013.
Poem to Check Out: Focus: Seattle Poets – Anis Gisele
Best line: “I sit with my body sometimes / and say, ‘Help is coming. You’re doing great.'”