Six teenage poets from across Dallas are headed to Washington DC this week for an international slam poetry festival. The poets are part of the Dallas Youth Poets.
The Dallas Youth Poets is a program aimed at helping young writers hone their craft and find a way to showcase their talents. The program is is facilitated by award-winning teacher and poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo.
The program started in 2012 and has been flourishing ever since. This year the squad participated in regional and national competitions, but this Tuesday they will head out to Washington DC for Brave New Voices, a poetry slam festival for young people.
Brave New Voices brings young poets from all over to participate in workshops, showcases and a high stakes competition. Though the festival is a fun experience for the poets, it’s also a great chance for them to get big time recognition. Finalist in the main competition will be featured on HBO and it will be interesting to see just how far these young writers can soar.
If you’d like to get a taste of what these poets’ performances are like then check out the audio below:
“Fat Black Girl” Written and Performed by Gabriel Edwards, Erica Johnson & Aubrey Smith
All: Wake up
AS: Roll out of bed
GE: Zombie walk to the shower
EJ: Don’t forget
All: Wash under every crevice, fold, roll
AS: Every crease that dirt could be hiding on my body
All: Get out
GE: Check the mirror
AS: Suck in insecurities like checking for rib bone
All: They’re never there
EJ: Moisturize thighs one hand full of lotion at a time
GE: Slather coconut oil between to keep from chafing
All: I hate chafing
EJ: Beat myself into beat face makeup
AS & GE: Rid myself of this fat girl face
GE: Pull layers of skin back
AS: Double chins
EJ: Rolled necks and chubby cheeks
GE: The first time I got called fat was 5th grade.
GE: My doctor said I was on the cliff hanging tight to obese and that my fat arms weren’t going to hold on much longer.
All: I just didn’t realize that being skinny wasn’t enough for me
All: My tiger stripes are dark, brown, and beautiful.
All: And comfort food can be eaten at all times
AS: Trapped in a dressing room like caged animal
The bulk of my thighs hanging out of
GE: jeans that were supposed to be my size,
EJ & GE: stuck on the magnitude of me
AS: Reflections surrounding me
Guilt and tears glazed over their eyes
Looking back at me like
All: You just had to eat that shit (Expletive)you
All: I cried so hard that I laughed
All: I laughed so hard that I cried
EJ: There was a time that being fat was adorable.
And chubby cheeks were a temporary pastime for old ladies to squeeze.
All: I wasn’t supposed to stay that way.
GE: Consistently feeling like a failure spiraling into constant depressions that look like
EJ & GE: Stuffing my face with hot Cheetos and snack cakes.
EJ: Starving myself for days at a time.
All: Some days I hate my body but on the days that I love it I let everybody know
All: I don’t think they understand that being black and fat is different
All: That being thinner isn’t enough for us
All: That we must, Waist train torture ourselves
EJ: Carve out thin waist from excess flesh and snapped bones
GE & EJ: Flatten the abdomen with just enough fat to tuck the muscle
All: Wretch the fat from your vocabulary like strict diet
EJ: Sugar coat that (Expletive) with splenda flavored euphemisms
All: Unhinge our jaw like submission
EJ: Spoon fed undertones of coke bottle cockiness
AS: And stick figure stunning
GE: Choke it down like weight loss pills and wait for the pounds to drop
All: I don’t think they understand that skinny was never enough for us, that our black is fat
EJ: And fat is beautiful
GE: And every power we own is beautiful
All: I, fat black girl, am beautiful
EJ: When I look in the mirror
AS: One day
GE: I won’t feel the need to
AS: Because my tummy needs sunlight
EJ: And my curves are deeper than my pigment
All: Fat black girl, On the bad days
GE: When you can’t shape yourself into the right kind of fat
AS: When your waist line won’t bend to your will
EJ: When your body betrays you
All: Remember you are beautiful
EJ: Remember you are allowed to bend
GE: to break
AS: But you are also allowed to stand tall
GE: Life is too fleeting to relinquish to a three letter word
AS: Bask in the glory of your good days
EJ: Carry them deep in your stomach
GE: And let them fill you
All: Own every bit of space you take up
Fat black girl,
On the bad days
Remember you are beautiful
You are more than enough
“Puppeteer” Written by Dakota Zihuatanejo and Performed by Dakota Zihuatanejo, Athena Davidson, Erica Johnson & Caroline Kibby
During the performance, Erica stands behind Dakota as her puppeteer and Kibby stands behind Athena as her puppeteer. At rise Athena and Dakota are collapsed on each other.
CK+EJ pull their puppets up from the space between them
DZ & AD: His touch was the first string, tied my senses up with shots
Everyone’s right arm up
Everyone’s right arm up
Everyone’s right arm up
DZ & AD: Three, maybe four, maybe more
Everyone’s right arm up on the bold words
EJ & CK: It’s hard to have a conversation
DZ+AD Turn inward
EJ &CK: When someone else pulls your strings
Everyone Jerk outward, EJ+CK with arms
DZ & AD: When you don’t feel like a real girl,
Cross arms over chest
DZ & AD: When you don’t feel anything
Drop arms and swing
EJ & CK: We remember boys with sweet voices, promising hope, promising freedom
but a puppet can only run as far as the strings let her
Runs motion, right leg and left hand; jerk backward
DZ: As far as the shots
AD: As far as that voice full of lies
DZ & AD: lets me.
I’m a real girl, I thought?
DZ+AD Tilt head to the left
DZ & AD: Your fingers felt so nice against my strings
I mean scars
Twitch chin toward shoulder
I mean skin
Twitch chin toward shoulder
EJ &CK: You mean sin
EJ+CK left hand up to head; D+A straighten head
DZ & AD: Consent was not the other person in the room,
Puppets don’t ask to be tied down
E+K arms up; D+A Wrists locked and up
DZ: I was wearing leggings,
DZ & AD: and a Mickey mouse Tee.
DZ+AD Lower wrists to waist
DZ & AD: I thought I got no strings on me
DZ+AD wrists still locked, reaching out
EJ &CK: Trust me
You won’t be the only person in the room
DZ+AD collapse into each other, EJ+CK step outside and speak into front mics
DZ: He tied the first string around my hips
EJ+DZ swing right arm around to hip
AD: then my lips,
CK+AD swing left arm over mouth
DZ & AD: I’ve never bit them closed so tightly.
His touch petrified me
Everyone lowers hands, slightly shaking fingers
EJ &CK: Made you less girl and more marionette
*Wait two seconds to get back in position*
EK+CK step forward, lean with mic stand, lower hand over DZ+AD’s face;
DZ+AD faces change from smile to blank face when palms cross eyes
DZ & AD: I was only a tad tipsy at the time
EJ+CK sway hands overhead, DZ+AD sway body with the same beat, right to left
DZ & AD: Swear I was aware of myself,
EJ+CK drop, DZ+AD anchor straight
AD: and dazed
ALL: at the same time
DZ & AD: Where did these strings come from?
look at hands left to right
DZ & AD: I never felt so uncomfortable from touch. quickly bring down left hand then slowly slide down right hand, creepily caressing body
DZ & AD: I tried so hard to distance myself.
kota and athena drop down leaning into one another on the word self
EJ & CK: My tragic puppet girl
EJ & CK: On a dimly lit stage
DZ & AD: Never ready to talk about it.
bring inner hand to shield one anothers mouth
DZ & AD: A wooden vessel can’t talk
Let alone feel bring down right hand and up left to meet at frontal underwear region at “feel”
DZ: I remember pulling his hand away from my underwear
remove both hands swiftly backwards on “pulling”
AD: I remember he entered without asking
Lean forward and put hands over stomach
DZ & AD: He more boy than man
EJ & CK: You more mannequin than woman
Kibby and Erica put their hands from bottom to top on Kota and Athena’s face to make them smile creepily-they immediately shake it off along with their hands
DZ & AD: He saw flesh
Never saw me
I got so many goddamn strings on me
We have always gotten
So used to being forgotten
After this line bring hands from outside to marionette position
EJ & CK: Left dangling in the hands of neglectful men
sway body from right to left on the boldes words and ease into shouting position by “men”
DZ & AD: I should’ve yelled.
leave hands at mouth
EJ & CK: The silent girl made of wood
stretch straight arms out behind back in a christlike manner with closed fists
DZ & AD: I could’ve told him no sharply bring arms down with closed fists
DZ: After his hand reached into my clothes
cross right arm down toward kidney
AD: into me
bring left arms crossed up to heart
DZ & AD: He trespassed this body.
bring arms down on tresspassed
But I had no scissors
so many strings on me
Don’t you see
That night will always be apart of me,
CK & EJ: And so will he.
DZ & AD: His shadow loomed over me.
bring hands up in “x” above head on “loomed” and throw them down on “that”
I thought his hands
would always hold one end of the string,
And for that,
I regret so much.
But now I have told one person.
bring up right arm palm facing you
Cut one string
face palm outward on “cut”
Have at least one chance of being heard
bring up left arm palm facing you
Cut two more face palm outward on “cut”
On this stage (look at each other)
In this room (look back to the audience) face palms outward)
Look… (with one final cutting gesture E and K
fall into each other’s arms lifeless)
“Shorties” Written and Performed by Dakota Zihuatanejo, Athena Davidson & Aubrey Smith (Cameo by Caroline Kibby)
DZ: This is for the ones who are verbally abused,
AD: For the ones who are always being leaned on
AS: This is for those that’re looked down upon.
AS: is it because we are feminists?
AD & DZ: maybe.
AS: Is it because we are meninists?
(looks at Aubrey)
All: Hell no!
(looks at Aubrey)
AS: its because we are all…very..very…
DZ: We are SO tired of being talked down to by people who are taller than 5’2”
AD: You are not cool.
AS: You’re not better than us.
All: You’re just tall.
All: And that’s it. Nothing else.
DZ: You think I’m happy the cashier at McDonald’s mistakes me as a child and hands me a kids meal?
All: Pa dad a da duh…
AD & AS: I’M HATIN IT *serious tone*
AD: I hate not being able to reach things.
AS: Having to-
All: God forbid,
AS: Ask a taller person to get that thing off the shelf,
AD: the refrigerator,
DZ: the wall.
All: It feels like the world was built for other people.
AS: The saddest story ever told goes like this
All: (Expletive) YOU ROLLERCOASTER RIDE MAN!
AS: Hosts still ask me if I’d like crayons when I walk into their restaurants
All: Hell nah I don’t want no crayons…okay…I kinda want some crayons!
AD: And to all you tall poets
DZ: Thinking what can all these shorties teach us about being epic?
AS: You can metaphorically suck it!
AD: Because little did you know that someone this low
All: Could rock a frickin’ microphone
AS: We don’t even need an entire 3 minutes
to blow your damn mind.
DZ & AS: No problem!
DZ: Lightning round?
AD & AS: No problem!
CK: A tall person making a cameo in your…short…poem
Beware slamming against us.
We may be small
But being fun size is just
too damn awesome.