What does it take to be a female poet and author? We asked them.
“We have to be honest with ourselves.”
For many poets, writing is more than just a hobby. In fact, for many writers the art form is used for healing, inspiring and engaging others. Poets are known for spilling real stories onto the pages and bringing forth a sense of self-awareness.
This is how Breanna Phillip, author of Nineteen93 puts it.
“I decided I would share for my healing and the healing of other women. It's stigmatizing to do but I had to address what I was feeling,” Phillip said.
This Brampton poet has been actively writing poetry for 12 years, seven of which were spent secretly writing for herself—a step she said was imperative to gaining self-confidence and staying true to herself.
In 2017, the author released her poetic autobiography on April 1, her birthday. Now at age 25, she believes putting her work out there on the day of her birth signified her life “coming full circle” and reinforced the idea that this book is a manifestation of her “most personal and honest thoughts and feelings” used to help cope with past sexual abuse.
For her, the hardest part of releasing her book was that her family and loved ones had not previously known about the trauma she faced with abuse. She says being honest with her experience is what kept her strong.
“I promote vulnerability, and I practice what I preach,” Phillip said. “Going through with that [book] was important to me, as well as being open and honest about the heavy trauma I faced.”
“Get on that stage and express yourself”
“For me it's all about performing and writing first,” said Robyn Sidhu, the nineteen-year-old author of My Grandmother’s Rivers.
Sidhu, who has been performing and writing for about five years, found her voice when confronted with homophobia in her high school. She notes it was important to tell her own story. Today, the young writer spends her time performing in Hamilton where she is also pursuing her studies at McMaster University.
Sidhu’s work revolves around topics like homophobia, gender norms and dismantling sexism. She also says she has witnessed sexism within the poetry slam community. She said that men will score better in competitions if they show their sensitive side.
“Men score better if they show vulnerability,” Sidhu said. “Slam poetry is tough and there’s an abundance of internalized misogyny.”
But that doesn't discourage her from being a female poet. Sidhu released her book in May of 2017. She learned how to self-publish after attending a poetry festival workshop.
Siddhu says the best thing for any poet who wants to be a performing artist is to try public speaking in front of people they don’t know and to talk about personal things that scare them.
“Performing in front of strangers is my favourite thing to do. They’ll never see you again,” Sidhu said.
“Take time on your writing, don’t rush the process”
Aissatou Bah started writing at the age of 14. She released her debut online poetry collection “Black Girl Shine”on May 3, 2017.
For the Toronto poet, the writing process is more intimate than anything. In fact, she hasn't performed her poetry in front of a public audience yet. Bah says nerves are the culprit and that she’s focused on perfecting her written craft before anything else. In terms of writing advice, Bah says collecting poetic work from the start is a great way to accumulate poetry until someone is finally ready to take that next step and publish.
“Just dump everything on a word document and write as much as you want,” she said. “Don't look back until you’ve finished writing everything you feel.”
Bah was also nervous about putting her work out there at first, but felt as though she owed it to herself to do it. She says her work is inspired by issues surrounding mental health, loss and depression. The author also says she is inspired by women, including herself.