My Journey Through Poetry to a Night at the Nuyorican


“Growing Pains” Video

“Growing Pains” Lyrics

*This is a video to my open mic performance of “Growing Pains” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on August 21. Profane language is present. Full article on my writing throughout high school is below.*

It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the light. After a few hard blinks, I look out into the audience from behind the microphone stand I just carried onstage. All I see are the featureless outlines of over a hundred heads, and while I can’t perceive their faces, I know that each wave in the dark sea of bodies carries two eyes fixated on me. The thought of it gives me goosebumps. I glance down at my beat-up pair of teal-green Chuck Taylors and my slightly-too-large jeans and my shaking hands with purple fingernails, like I’m suffering from frostbite instead of stage fright. I take a slow breath, lift my head up, and with a voice that sounds a bit more squeaky than I would like, begin my poem.

That was March of my freshman year of high school, at Friends Academy’s 18th Original Works production. As a ninth grader entering a new school, I tried numerous activities in a frantic attempt to prove I could relate to the people around me, prove I could fit in. However, one February night, I had a big disagreement with my dad. Afterwards, in a fresh fit of creative fury, I took every word I wished I could have said and scribbled it down in sloppy, curving script. Less than a week later, after writing every night, I had finished my first independent poem, a piece that I wanted to share. I talked to some teachers, practiced my piece, and soon I found myself on stage that fateful March night, a night where I cast my social worries aside and discovered a passion I carry to this day. 

As I stepped down from that stage, all I could think to myself was, “I loved that. I need to do more of that.” Over the past three years, I have published in our school’s literary magazine and performed in more Original Works productions, all with the goal of improving on a craft I have come to appreciate and love. What started out as a spontaneous creative impulse has now become a constant outlet for self expression I never knew I was missing. I can tell the world my problems, show it my fears, explain my ideas, all while creating a piece of art I find beautiful and complex. I fell in love with putting myself out there, and this past summer, I wanted to branch out from of the Friends Academy community, so I signed up for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s open mic poetry slam. 

Now, as the last line of the poem leaves my lips, I stand behind another mic stand on yet another stage, peering down into yet another sea of faces turned towards me alone. I’ve grown about five inches and two shoe sizes since my first Original Works night, but the same feelings of anticipation grip me just as tightly as I wait for the audience’s reaction. Everytime I step on stage, I lower my defenses. Standing there in the fluorescent lighting, I am vulnerable, prey to the powerful perceptions of the audience. If I never wrote that first poem freshman year, that threat would be too daunting for me. I would step down from the stage before beginning; I would not even travel out to the Lower East Side in the first place for fear of what my friends would think. That’s why I keep writing. I’ve come to love my poetry and love presenting it, because without it, I risk losing the sense of individuality I’ve worked so hard to foster. I risk losing my way to talk to the world. I think about all this as my last word reverberates throughout the cafe. “Yes,” I think, “I need this.” Suddenly, as if confirming my thoughts, the audience bursts into applause.