Today’s spotlight poet is the incredible Rachel McKibbens, I first met Rachel in 2007 in Austin at the National Poetry Slam. She was on Louder Arts which made it to final stage that year. Rachel is a rockstar whose work I had appreciated from the first poem I heard her perform.
Fast forward two years (I think) to WOWPS (Women of the World Poetry Slam), I had flown to Detroit to support the WOWps and hear some of the best voices in slam compete. Rachel was in this tournament and it was here that I was really able to sit down and just be blown away by her poetry.
When you are in a slam or coaching you really don’t get to enjoy a tournament in the same way that you would as a spectator. This was the first time I was able to do this and I got to hear Rachel perform on more than one occasion.
One of the bouts that she crushed, she did the below poem. Rachel has a way to remove your entire soul from you as she is doing a poem and give it back to you as soon as she walks off stage, Some poets can change the energy in a room, Rachel is one of the few poets I know that can create it, it does not matter what it was before she came on stage, as if her poem is a feature in the middle of a slam, like when the camera freezes everyone but the actor and they look directly in the camera as if they are talking directly to you.
I was in a PACKED black box theater listening to this poem, the hair rising up on my arm, as I had to remind myself to breathe. The room was funeral silent the whole time Rachel was reciting the poem & you could feel the energy shifting to the infection of her voice.
There are poems you hear that just stay with you, not sure the rhyme or reason they just do. This is one of them, I have 1 kid and 1 on the way and I think often about how and what I say to them will affect them in the long run. Since I became a parent I think about this poem from time to time, I think about the trees I am planting inside of them. I hope to always lay seeds that produce good fruit, but sometimes as parents we get things wrong.
This poem is brave and honest and self–actualized (as all of Rachel’s poems tend to be).
The last lines haunt you — as they are meant to
Mom do you remember that day at the park
Do you remember how small I was
how you did
not even say
And what I love and respect most about this poem, is that she ends it there, she does not go into this soapbox about parenting, she does not spin zone it into her looking like a hero, she just lets it lay there vulnerable….
A great poem from a great writer, one who has set a standard and broken a mold for many poets that have come after her.
*I wrote this from memory – my memory sucks.. 🙂 if there is anything here that is wrong let me know
Follow along with Rachel here: