She steps onto the big stage and exhales nervously.
The microphone lets out a small echo. Her words flood the crowd and fill the room with the emotions she was always unable to express.
After watching a school-wide Get Lit poetry slam, senior Emily Chen found an interest in spoken word in her freshman year. She has since earned several poetry honors, including being a two-time Poetry Out Loud district champion and sacrilegious poet for the Get Lit poetry slam finals. However, those mean little in comparison to how poetry connects her to herself and others.
“I’ve met a lot of great people along the way and have heard many stories through poetry,” Chen said. “I feel like I could connect and relate to them even though I’ve never met them.”
Being exposed to the personal experiences of poets from various backgrounds fills Chen with much inspiration. She feels comfortable sharing her story to others who can relate and exude the same passion for poetry that she has.
“All of the poems I write are very personal,” Chen said. “I am most surprised when even adults can relate to my poems, but it inspires me to know that I can impact others with my personal experiences.”
As a member of Speech and Debate and with her natural confidence, Chen finds the public speaking aspect of spoken word performance to be easy but not the public emotional vulnerability. That was a skill that she honed with every new poem she performed.
“It was hard for me to be vulnerable in public because I was scared of how people would respond,” Chen said. “But in poetry, I can speak out about anything I need to say freely, and no one bats an eye. Instead, my problems are empowering because they come out as poems.”
In Chen’s eyes, listening and sharing poetry pushes her to appreciate the significance of being vulnerable with herself and to embrace those feelings.
“I have a stronger understanding of myself and my situations because there is so much emotion involved in poetry,” Chen said. “When I write and read those poems, I gain clarity of what my problems are and I become more connected to myself.”