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How Poetry Saved My Life - Interview with Mei-Mei Mijares

Questions by Loraine Garcia

Find the original post here.

L: Hiya Mei-Mei! Before I start, I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post! As someone who has never been a part of a writing group, I definitely feel like I’ve been missing out on something great.

And now on to the questions! How did you come up with the idea behind this blog post?

M: I’m so glad you enjoyed it! If you ever want to write with me, let me know. I’m always down for writing sessions.

I honestly started writing this post last month around the time I had finished planning a small Poets’ Club Alumni reunion, but with doing the trip and feeling all of my loss over not being able to do it in 2020, I couldn’t bring myself to write it. I wrote a prompt post for National Poetry Month and I really really wanted to do a Poets’ Club post justice because I was seeing everyone again and my school for the first time since 2019. So basically, I was feeling sad and nostalgic and I needed to write about it.

L: Who is your favorite poet of all time and why?

M: Sarah Kay. I’ve been following her spoken word poetry since I was 14, around the time that I started writing, and I love how she focuses on free-verse and really uses every figurative language tool in her arsenal. I love the softness in her delivery because it’s the natural way I perform poems too. It’s very easy to yell spoken word, but it takes skill to know when to stew in quiet.

She also started Project VOICE with her friend and fellow poet, Phil Kaye, where they go around the country performing and teaching workshops on poetry and spoken word. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I aspire to be like her one day. I once was at the Last Bookstore in LA when I heard her voice, and she happened to be doing a performance there! I had no idea and I criiiiieeeed. I got her autograph and a photo with her and everything. So yeah. She’s a huge deal to me.

L: What about your favorite poem of all time and why?

M: Okay, this is NOT fair Loraine haha. This is really hard, so I will cheat and say two favorites: a poem meant for the page, and a poem meant for performance.

1. Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay

This is actually the poem I did for Poetry Out Loud (I got second place to a girl who broke literally every rule but you know, not still mad about it or anything). My favorite lines are:

But I do not approve.

More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

The speaker of the poem was talking about how when we put our loved ones in the ground, they are fed to the roses and while the flowers may be beautiful, they will never compare to the beauty of their loved one alive,, sharing moments with the speaker. I know this is a sad poem but I have loved it since high school because while it is sad, it’s hopeful. It is reminiscent. It is acknowledging that death will come to us all but we don’t need to be resigned when it happens. It’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to not approve. It is perfectly normal to acknowledge that it is not fair when we suffer loss, and to wish it didn’t happen at all.

2. The Type by Sarah Kay

I was battling between this one and Intro by Reyna Biddy from Kehlani’s album, but I chose this because it speaks to me more at the moment. I love this poem because Sarah tells us that growing up, there will be those who will want to love us and we can let them, but at the end of the day, we can build ourselves. The whole poem is full of favorite lines but this one hits:

Some men will want to hold you like you are THE answer

You are not THE answer

You are not the problem

No matter how others treat us women like we’re the answer or the problem or the muse or anything other than a human being with wants, needs, and dreams, we have the power to build the life that we want. I love how empowering this poem is.