In-Depth Look: Blythe Baird – “Yet Another Rape Poem”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“I’ve noticed that people only stopped calling me victim and started calling me survivor when I stop talking about it.”
This is a poem that does a lot of work. On one level, it’s a stirring, important statement about trauma and healing in the context of rape culture. While the national conversation is driven by flashpoints like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and #MeToo, this poem “zooms in” on sexual assault and its aftermath, telling a deeper, fuller story in a very limited amount of time.
In addition to that, I’m struck by how a line like “watch me build an empire from the ashes of every single thing that tried to destroy me” relates to spoken word not just as an “activity” that people do, but as a specific cultural practice. The idea of “this stage” being one of the only platforms that people (whether they be survivors, members of under-or-misrepresented groups, young people, or anyone who does not naturally have access to attention and representation) have to stand up and speak their truth is a profound lesson on the value of this community, as well as the responsibilities that come with being part of that community.
I hear the title of this poem as a direct rebuke to that ever-present contingent of audience members and online commenters who bemoan (often in gendered and racialized terms) how “political” so much spoken word is. As this poem demonstrates: there’s a reason it’s so “political.” There’s a reason so many survivors choose to tell their stories through poetry. Performing can be therapeutic. But it isn’t *only* therapeutic; it isn’t *only* about the performer. The act of telling our stories, of saying the things that we need to say, is also a radical, community-building endeavor, one that both brings people together… and challenges them.