22 • MINNESOTA
Originally from the northwest suburbs of Chicago, the viral and award-winning writer has garnered international recognition for her poems that speak out on sexual assault, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, sexuality, and healing.
Her work has been featured by Glamour, ELLE India, TedxMinneapolis, The National Eating Disorder Association, Mic, The Huffington Post, EverydayFeminism, Medium, The Mighty, The Body Is Not An Apology, Write Bloody, Button Poetry, A-Plus, and more.
Baird graduated from Hamline University in the Spring of 2018 with a dual degree in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. Blythe’s highly anticipated full-length collection, IF MY BODY COULD SPEAK, is out now with Button Poetry. Get your copy here.
GO BUY THIS BOOK.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE A POET?
Two things: the first reason I wanted to be a poet was because I saw Sierra DeMulder do poetry. At the time, I had never heard of someone doing performance poetry before and it really impacted me. I felt very shook by it and very seen in a way that I hadn’t really experienced before when watching a movie or reading a book. I was like, I want to make somebody feel that profoundly moved. I want to be able to create such an emotional impact in that way. That was the original reason I was into it. Then when I chose poetry over acting, it was because when I was acting, I had to tell other people’s stories. It wasn’t the stories that I wanted to tell or cared about. I liked poetry because I could perform my stories. It’s almost like spoken word is this one person play for 3 minutes but you’re like playing yourself.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN THEMES IN YOUR WRITING?
I write about recovery, eating disorders, healing from sexual assault and rape, sexuality, being young, and my family.
ARE THERE THINGS THAT YOU ARE AFRAID TO WRITE ABOUT? HOW DO YOU CONQUER THAT FEAR?
There are a lot of things I am afraid to write about. I think the root of that is being conscious of the fact that I know young people are watching me. Now as I’m getting older and find myself in more adult scenarios, I am conscious about putting out more mature content. The past collections I did were very much surrounding my high school and college experiences. Now as I’m working on my next book, I think my audience is also growing with me. I try to just let myself write about where I’m at, when I’m there.
HOW DO YOU FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN YOUR WORK LIFE AND PERSONAL LIFE?
I feel very machine-like in that way especially after I started working full time. I’ve figured out I write best in the day time rather than when it’s dark out. I’ll always try to wake up early, so I can work on stuff before I have to go to my job. I have a million to do lists. I have my own method to my madness of organizing everything. In terms of balancing it with personal time, It’s really hard because I’m not really good at clocking out in that way... but I am really good at taking breaks. Me and my roommate play Crazy 8’s like every single day.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT AS A POET?
I’m proudest of my work ethic because even as a teenager I was always thinking 5 years ahead. Even when I first started writing I just was always posting it, always very proactive about figuring out how to further myself in poetry. I think in retrospect, I can recognize that being headstrong in that way at that age is pretty rare. When I was starting out, I didn’t know many young people who were also trying to compete with the adults or trying to get into publishing. I am proud of my younger self for not letting my age deter me from pursuing professional goals.
HOW HAS YOUR WORK CHANGED OVER TIME?
When I first started writing, I think I was trying too hard to mimic the style of poets that I admired. Although I do think it’s good to observe other poets to figure out what you like and don’t like about their work in order to develop your own style. Over time I’ve become very into telling my stories in the exact way that I want to tell them. I don’t feel the need to pick content based on what I think will be popular. Now I’m focused on trying to dissect the memories that I actually want to write about and not just what I think people will applaud for.
HOW HAS YOUR WRITING CAREER AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR FAMILY?
My mom won’t read my poems, or at least this is what she tells me. My mom has told me not to write about her. She tells me she hasn’t read anything and that she doesn’t want to. She is proud, though, that she can tell people “Open Glamour magazine, my kid is in there” or about me performing in India. But we don’t really talk about the writing. My dad is really supportive of my poetry. When I was younger he would drive me to compete at slams.
WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
Sierra DeMulder and Siaara Freeman my mentors, Olivia Gatwood and Donte Collins my friends, and then one of my favorite poets that I love to read is Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I don’t know her in real life but she has this one poem called The Purchase that I think about all the time. I also really like Ada Limon.
WHAT IS ONE THING NOW A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I’m really into crocodiles. I love crocodiles. I watch the GatorLand YouTube channel all the time. I have a favorite crocodile trainer-- her name is Savannah Boan. Also, I’m really into Pokemon Go. I’ve always been into Pokemon, I used to make my own cards when I was little because my mom didn’t want to get me the cards because I think she thought it it was like a boy thing. Oh, and I can also hold a headstand for a hot minute!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIECES YOU'VE DONE?
Pocket Sized Feminism. That one I am most proud of because I wrote it in like one day, and I’ve never wrote a poem in one day and have it be done. So that was cool, that’s my favorite poem to perform.
WHAT ROLE DOES THE POET HAVE IN SOCIETY?
The same as an ancient scribe, just to tell about it! Just to record all the shit that’s going down so hopefully if the human race survives then we have record of what happened.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR HIGH-SCHOOL SELF?
It’s really hard because I went through so many different versions of myself through the course of high-school. To my earlier high school self, I would say It’s okay if people don’t like you. You don’t have to constantly perform your personality in order to be relevant. People will still like you without you having to impress them. To my late high school self, I was really sick then, so I I'd probably just tell myself to like, stop being so focused on starving yourself. I would also just say keep doing your thing, work-wise. I was very strong in my self-awareness. I felt I knew what was right and what was fucked up and I eventually was able to let go of needing to be liked for the sake of what I felt like was right. There was a lot of drama at my high school that was tied to a lot of very social issues and when I look back I can always say I was on the side of it that I am proud of. I didn’t let the need to have people like me compromise my values.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
I’m trying to go on tour and I’m also trying to put out another book before I’m 24. I also want to go to grad school, I want to teach, and I want to make more short films of poems.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU GET STUCK ON A POEM?
I will read it to somebody and get their feedback on it to get ideas of where to go with
it. Or I’ll just leave it and I’ll come back when I feel like it, or I just won’t. Sometimes I’ll just
leave it and never come back to it. I think that’s okay too.
DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU'RE GOING TO RUN OUT OF THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT?
No. I feel more concerned that I’m going to run out of time to communicate them
SO, YOU HAVE 2 BOOKS THAT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED?
Yes! So the first book only had two of my spoken word poems Girl Code and a weird,
chopped up version of When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny. My new book has a few of the same
poems but then it’s got a ton of new ones, too. It’s just more of a complete collection.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH REJECTION?
Do whatever you can to tell yourself it’s whatever. Like it’s cool that you even tried. I don’t think there’s a non-cheesy way to be like “it’s all good, dude”. I literally will think of my own poem Theories about the Universe about how whatever doesn’t work out, something else is supposed to work out, or there was a reason that what you wanted to have happen didn’t work out. I’m not afraid to deal with the reality that it’s so possible I didn’t get into grad school because there were people that were better than me. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that anything I’ve done hasn’t been good. I think that being able to sit with the knowledge that you might not be the best of the best is a learned skill that I think makes it easier to deal with. In my brain I try to lower the stakes, like It would be cool if I got this but not the end of the world if I didn’t. and then there are so many other things I got without even having to apply. Like both of my books, I didn’t submit them. I was approached by publishers to write a book for them.
YOU'RE ALSO INTO ACTING, AND YOU HAVE BEEN IN A COUPLE MOVIES?
Yeah, the first one I did was a short film called Disconnected. Then I got signed to my management team in Chicago, Management by Morgan. Then I did a couple of commercials and I had a little featured extra part in Divergent. When I was 16, I used a spoken word poem as a monologue in an audition for a Netflix film called "The UnMiracle." I ended up getting cast as the lead in that, where I played the most popular girl in school who overdoses on heroin in a small town. Hailey Baldwin/Bieber's real dad played my character's dad, which was wild. We didn't finish filming it until I was 18. It was based off a true thing that happened to the director with his friend. I think I would like to explore acting again sometime in the future, but for now I'm definitely more focused on and committed to doing poetry.