Today, I had the chance to perform along nationally recognized poets Franny Choi and Hieu Nguyen as a part of the second annual Asian Monologues. I have been a fan of Franny ever since I met her for the first time at Split This Rock last year, when I received my first immersive experience in the world of spoken word and social justice poetry. The whole evening was a testament to the power of how, as we like to say in our spoken word poetry class, “No one can speak your truth as well as you can.” I read poems about my turbulent home life, about my struggles with body image, about my attempts to carve out an identity as a daughter of immigrants. Others spoke of how the Asian American community is often silenced and called for more spaces such as this one in order to highlight marginalized voices. Still others spoke of the pain of diaspora within diaspora.
I often wonder whether becoming embroiled or involved in social justice issues distances me from the type of philosophy that is discussed in the Gita or in Advaita Vedanta. I write a lot of poems about the body, especially about reclaiming and exploring the body. Reclamation is a powerful tool of dealing with trauma and of processing emotional pain – especially the pain of being told that my body doesn’t matter. However, writing body-centered poetry also means that I tend to identify with the body deeply in some of my pieces. However, when I perform a poem – although not with all poems, I feel as though I have channeled my pain into something healing and constructive. In this sense, I am not controlled by my emotions; I am able to pull them out of my pocket to set myself free from trauma. So perhaps there is an intersection or overlap between yoga philosophy and spoken word poetry. My head is always so full after performances that I can’t process too much too quickly, but I hope to return to this topic in the future – and to write more about poetry in general.