I read the news constantly. On a good day it makes me a little queasy; on a bad day it’s really sort of horrifying. Snarky comments from my woke Twitter fam can only alleviate the stress so much. When I came across a video on Button Poetry’s Facebook page of Olivia Gatwood absolutely slaying the reading of her poem “Ode to the Women on Long Island” I instantly had my fist raised in the air in solidarity. THIS. This is what I needed: poetry, spit out and swearing at me—no, WITH me. A personal perspective on the day’s news cycle, on women’s lives, on living with depression, and so many other topics.
I had no idea poetry could be this fiery and visceral. I mean, I love words—in song lyrics, in movies and books, in a cosmic Twelfth Doctor anti-war speech, in a poem my sister wrote about our grandmother for school. I’ll just say it, one of my favorite quotes is from a Victorian AU fan fiction bookmarked on my phone. That being said, I had never been exposed to this level of impassioned authenticity. These poems and performances are raw and emotional. These artists talk like me, they swear, sometimes they fumble their words out of sheer intensity.
Some of my all-time favorite of their viral videos are the above-mentioned poem by Gatwood from New American Best Friend, “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim from Depression & Other Magic Tricks, “Chameleon” by Rudy Francisco from Helium, “OCD” by Neil Hilborn from Our Numbered Days, “My Wife is Shaped Like” by William Evans from Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair, and “The Women in My Family are Bitches” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva from Peluda.
Here are some basics about Button Poetry: It was founded in 2011. They release albums of live poetry readings, viral videos of poets reading their own work, and publish print books. They also run contests to discover new voices in poetry. Several of their print releases were among the finalists on Goodreads Choice Awards for 2017. You really need to be following them on Facebook and Instagram if only for the chance to have some meaningful content in your daily scroll. (Nothing against cat videos, I love those too.)
So, if there are still some issues in the world today that remain nameless and faceless to you, give Button Poetry a try. The passion with which these young poets and artists present their work is a moving experience. Plus you’ll be on your way to being well and truly woke.