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Queer Slam Poetry Round-up

Hello! My name is Anna Saldinger (she/her), and I’m interning with SpeakOUT Boston through mid-February. I’m a senior at Bennington College, and I study radio production, journalism, media theory, and literature. When I’m not making radio, I’m thinking about queer theory and the intersection of the personal and the political. As part of my work for SpeakOUT this winter, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts exploring different facets of queer life that draw both on research and personal experience.

Queer slam poetry has a rich history in the greater Boston area, and continues to be an electric form of storytelling and expression around the country and the world. Here’s a slam sampler that includes queer poets to check out — both local and national — and spoken word organizations and events for youth and adults in the area.


Porsha Olayiwola

In 2018, Porsha Olayiwola was named Boston’s Poet Laureate, a position akin to a “literary ambassador” that carries a four-year term. She is a self-described “black, poet, queer-dyke, hip-hop feminist, and womanist.” Olayiwola is the Artistic Director of MassLeap, a literary non-profit organization in Massachusetts serving youth artists; a nationally recognized slam poetry champion; and co-founder of The House Slam. Until recently, it was based at The Haley House Bakery and Cafe, but the space is on hiatus, so follow House Slam on Facebook for updated info about future activities. Information about her work and workshops is available at her website, linked above. Check out Unnamed and Angry Black Woman.

Emanuel Xavier

Emanuel Xavier is a poet, author, and gay rights activist and youth advocate. Xavier has survived homelessness, abandonment, addiction, and violence, and he speaks candidly about these experiences in his work. He was invited to speak at the United Nation in 2015, and has published many collections of poetry. Check out Justice Poetry Reading.

Kit Yan is a renowned poet, screenwriter, lyricist, and creator of Queer Heartache, a one-person slam show about the different forms of systematic oppression enacted upon queer people. His work also explores his intersectional identity as a trans Asian American from Hawaii. Yan describes his work as “a dreamspace where queer and transgender folx can time travel in order to witness, remember, and heal our herstories. I hold writing as a spaceship into the borderless ancestral past, the puzzle pieces of an imagined queertureverse, and a lifeline back onto this earth.” Check out SHE and Speaking English (from Queer Heartache).

Oompa is an acclaimed Boston-born poet, rapper, and educator. Click here to view some of her work.  

Andrea Gibson

You may already be familiar with the iconic queer slam poet Andrea Gibson, but now, as always, is a fabulous time to explore their work. Gibson’s poetry is intricate, their most recent book is Lord of the Butterflies, which is newly published in 2018. A Letter to My Dog: Exploring the Human Condition. This reading is overlayed over Gibson performing the poem as well as footage of their dog, Squash. Also, check out Living Proof.

Boston Spoken Word Organizations and Events

MassLEAP:The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP) is a Boston-based collective dedicated to holding artistic space for youth through spoken word. They work with schools and organizations, offer internships, and host the Louder Than A Bomb Boston Youth Poetry Festival each April.

Boston Pulse: Boston Pulse is an offshoot of Indy Pulse- an organization that offers slam poetry programs in middle and high schools.

The Cantab Open Mic: The Cantab open mic is a two-hour segment at the beginning of the Boston Poetry Slam weekly show with an open sign-up list. The Boston Poetry Slam encourages an eclectic variety of acts on their website, including a “sixth grade diary entry, stump speech, political diatribe, [or] nonsense verse.” While not a specifically LGBTQ space, Cantab has been a springboard for many queer poets. On March 13, 2019, genderqueer trans womxn torrin.a greathouse will be the featured poet at the weekly show. For more information about torrin.a greathouse and their upcoming performance, click here.

FEMS: The Feminine Empowerment Movement is a grassroots organization dedicated to radical accessibility and holding space for the voices of femme poets. They host slam tournaments as well as monthly open mics at the Lucy Parsons Center in Jamaica Plain. The events are open to all, but the mic is reserved for femme identifying people. This year, FEMS Festival and Tournament will be held October 18th-20th, 2019. To learn more about the tournaments and their work in general, visit their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.