Bao Phi

There are so many times in my life when I wish I had the power to destroy anyone who would threaten or seek to humiliate the people I love. When you were a small, shy, awkward kid like me, and you saw and experienced some of the things I did and you can do nothing, you’re going to gravitate to those comic books and fantasies where the nerd gets bit by a radioactive spider and can beat up the bad guys.

There is no one who can stop you; you find a mic, a crowd, a set of ears, and nowadays, a camera and YouTube, and you recite your poem. You have your say. I don’t want to over-romanticize it: of course, any time an art form ascends, especially when competition is involved, there will be gatekeeping, chauvinism, and other unfortunate dynamics. But the beauty of spoken word and performance poetry is, by and large, its ability to reach people in the moment – right there, right then.

Sometimes a poem starts because I feel the urge to write about something from which I carry a great deal of shame, and I try to sketch out in writing how I am complicit in whatever dynamic it is I am illuminating. And sometimes it comes later, when I step back and challenge myself – am I being honest here?