But I never let anyone read them. I would write the stories and then, more often then not, delete them off of my computer. I was very private about my writing, so when I got to college and saw spoken word poetry for the first time, I was in utter amazement. I couldn't believe that people could be so brave as to get up and share their stories on stage; to let people see them while they shared writing. I kept coming back to the meetings but didn't write until I was a semester into school, I then started performing with the group and then really began to believe in my identity as a poet.
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a teen?
Love yourself. Love yourself hard. No one is going to teach you how to love yourself well but yourself.
Tell us about a time when you were brave, or bravery was required of you, or you saw someone else being brave.
Oh, what a question. Bravery comes in so many forms, doesn't it? In college, my best friend's lover died in a tragic accident while he was studying abroad. I watched her grow wings. The way that she handled grief in such a dignified, gracious, and honest manner was breathtaking. That was strength I had never seen before. I was utterly amazed, but there is no way that I could ever pinpoint that to one moment of bravery: it is a bravery she carried with her everyday, one that lives in her skin. As for myself, I think that, most recently, it has been when I had to tell a man I loved that he assaulted me. It took me months to do it- I wanted to forgive him very badly for it. I wanted to pretend that it hadn't happened. And then, it got to the point where I couldn't do that anymore and I had to talk to him. It took a lot of bravery to do that.
How do you start a poem? Give us a window into your process.
I feel like I'm always writing. My mind doesn't often turn itself off, it looks at things and is always trying to turn them into a poem. But I carry my notebook everywhere and so I'll often write a line here or there and then read through my notebook and be like-- "Wait, this is a poem." Or, I'll read a poem that awakens something inside me and have to write. Or, I'll look at a blank piece of paper for hours and come up with nothing and feel frustrated and then two days later write three poems in a day. Process is hard to define for me, because so much of process is living life. I need to write. Otherwise I go crazy. I get into a very dark place. My poems often feel like they are born out of a necessity within me; that they have to come out. When they do I feel very relieved.
What is your motto for getting through the tough times?
"You are strong. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are worthy." I chant this to myself every morning.