Teen Voices: Eliyah, Spoken Word Artist

Each month we spotlight a teen at CPL.

Eliyah is a 17-year-old from Douglass Branch with a passion for poetry and slams. She was featured at Douglass' Open Mics, which is just one of the branches that host poetry slams. Eliyah filled us in on her creative journey from starting to write poetry to emceeing events, both in and outside the library.

Q: When did you first start writing and performing at poetry slams?

A: I first started writing in seventh grade and I didn’t start performing until I was a freshman in high school. The mentor I had from middle school influenced me to write and perform my pieces because he knew I had something to say. When I graduated from middle school I got a summer job at Colored Girls Are Cover Girls. This program is for girls who want to expand their writing and/or learn more about poetry. The mentors I had there were also a huge inspiration to my writing.  

Q: In what ways did the Poetry Slam at the Douglass Branch influence you and/or help you grow as a performer? 

A: It influenced me as a poet because I related to a lot of the poets and it was inspiring hearing their poems and stories. Being there influenced me as a performer because it made me feel like I was one step closer to being heard. Yes, emceeing for the first time was weird at the beginning but then I started enjoying it. I liked it because I got to introduce new poets and get the crowd pumped to hear what they had to say. 

Q: Can you tell me more about the poems you performed? What are they about?  

A: My “Dear Diary” poem was basically me explaining how I felt in a diary formation. I was going through a dark time in my life and I wrote that poem as my diary. I was explaining what was going on and how I was feeling and it came to be one of my strongest poems. My "Here’s to Society" poem was me writing about the violence that is happening around me. A person I knew got killed and I was angry and upset. The society we live in is dysfunctional and I had to write about it.  

I hope to inspire people by letting them know that they are not alone and their voice needs to be heard. I would tell people not to be afraid to put themselves out there and get noticed because in reality you have nothing to lose. 

Q: What advice do you have for young women who are interested in becoming a part of the poetry slam community?  

A: I feel like women don’t do enough poetry because they feel like their poetry is more personal or not as good, but everyone needs to hear it. People need to know that women have a voice. You can’t be intimidated by men. If they want to collaborate with men or with a group they should do it, as long as they are getting exposed for the poet they really are. I collaborate with men a lot when I write poetry because I feel like they make me a better writer. It’s also a safe, fun, caring and growing environment working with them. 

Thank you Eliyah for sharing your words and passion. Keep on creating and encouraging others to find their voice!