Blythe Baird has more to slam

After the release of her book “If My Body Could Speak” in February, Blythe Baird continues to push her creative limits.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

She is dressed in pastel pinks and purples. Lace is draped across her arms.

The image is gentle — but the story she tells is candid and cutthroat.

Her words invoke a processing of emotions and exclamations of survivorship.

Blythe Baird writes her poems to aid understanding within herself, and to help others understand what it’s like to have the experiences she’s had. 

Baird began writing and performing spoken word poetry at a slam poetry camp when she was 16 years old. She found the camp through slam poet Sierra DeMulder, who was a counselor at the time. 

“I had never had a room full of people listening to me for three minutes straight about something that I had written,” Baird said. “It made me feel seen and it made me feel understood, it made me feel empowered.”

This is where she still derives her motivation. In high school, Baird didn’t particularly like the poetry they read in class. It was hard to understand and made her feel as though she was missing the point.

She wanted her poetry to have the opposite effect.

“I wanted people who related to [the poems] to relate, and people who didn’t relate to be able to understand,” Baird said. “I didn’t want there to be a whole lot of room for misinterpretation.”

Following slam poetry camp, she realized that she wanted to do more. Baird started participating in Young Chicago Authors before entering the adult poetry slam scene.

Then she found Lethal Poetry, another Chicago organization that allowed her to compete under the age of 18. 

“I wanted to do the adult scene because I wanted to go to nationals,” Baird said. “People are traveling the U.S. and the world to do poetry and I was like, ‘I want to get involved in whatever that’s about.’”

Baird’s desire to give her poems life in a room full of strangers was one she knew she had to pursue. She didn’t want them to exclusively live inside her head, which she said is “very lonely.”

“There is spirituality in being in a room and having it be live and having it be something that you can’t turn away from,” Baird said. “I always liked the power in that because it just felt more impactful for me.”

Baird moved to Minnesota in 2014 to join the ranks of Button Poetry and attend college. That same year, her poem “Girl Code 101” went viral on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel. This was followed by “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny” in 2015 and “Pocket-Sized Feminism” in 2016. The latter is a piece that still resonates with her every time she performs it.

“It feels like I’m releasing something again,” Baird said. “Especially after being told not to speak for so long, it’s really helpful to be able to [perform] that poem.”

The poem is a narration of experiences that are familiar to many women. In it, she says “once, I told a boy I was powerful and he told me to mind my own business.” 

“Pocket-Sized Feminism” and a number of her viral poems are featured in her book “If My Body Could Speak,” which was released in February. 

Published through Button Poetry, the book is a collection of her collegiate work that she wrote while attending Hamline University. 

“I had developed a reputation of being a prodigy, of being a wunderkind young poet who was doing all of these things while being really young,” Baird said. “It’s difficult not wanting to disappoint anyone. My worst fear was to have people think, ‘Oh she’s gone downhill,’ or ‘She’s already peaked.’”

But Baird has plans in mind: she wants to finish another book within the next year and a half, she wants to perform with a dance troupe to one of her own spoken word poems and she wants to tour.

Baird also loves teaching. She’ll be teaching slam poetry classes at The Loft Literary Center this summer.

“I never thought that two-thirds of the things that I’ve done would be reachable. [But] they were,” Baird said.