By: Natalie Saar
Art comes in many different forms, and some of those have nothing to do with a canvas -- like poetry. This is the world where Lady Narrator, a spoken word artist, feels most at-home.
While this isn’t the name she was given at birth, it’s become the name synonymous with her work and her art career. She explains how she got the name saying, “Ten years ago, I wanted to start publishing my nonfiction writing and back then blogs had become the ‘it’ starting points. The moment I knew I needed to launch it was after an awkward encounter with a guy at Forever 21 and I realized I narrate my experiences in my head so I thought, ‘Hey I'm a lady who narrates things and writes, I'm Lady Narrator!’ From then on it remained only the blog's name but as I became more involved in spoken word/poetry performance, I felt like it fit my identity.
“Plus it's unique and does NOT get mispronounced like my birth name does about 372 times a day,” she jokes.
But Lady Narrator’s love of poetry and recognition for it started long before this name-changing moment. “I have been writing poetry since I was around ten, but I never shared it with people. In all honesty, I treated it like secret diary entries. I knew I loved writing [in general] since fourth grade. Strangely enough, English assignments and written assignments were always my favorite and when I found myself stocking up poems of my own that were straight from the heart, I decided to take a chance on them.”
Then it only took a few key moments to help her kick her writing career in high gear. “In high school, I submitted to a few contests and won some, including one where my poem was featured in an anthology. At 16, it became something I was not as afraid to share. When I heard my parents call me ‘a poet’ I was in. That's all the validation I needed to believe in my own work, my own words.”
Lady Narrator’s journey continued from here, well into her college years and beyond, which is where she found the courage to make herself and her words more visible. “After college, I dared to consider myself a possible writer and poet despite not studying it. Aside from writing and publishing, I decided to try performing it then too.”
Then came her first live show, “My first experience was right after publishing my first book. I did things in reverse and that came from being inexperienced in the realm of poetry having been too afraid to share my work originally. But hitting that stage the first time in July 2009, it was a remarkable and polarizing experience. On one hand I was so freaking nervous, hating the spotlight and fearful as hell; on the other hand it was exhilarating to be forcing myself out of my comfort zone and hearing myself read my own words. Now I look back and see how much growth has come in this decade and it's absolutely humbling.”
Her themes and subject matter stay fairly close to home and to what matters in Lady Narrator’s community and personal life. “A good majority of my work revolves around feminism and women's rights. As a woman, and specifically a Muslim Syrian woman, in this day and age it's one of the most important subjects that needs to be under every spotlight. Even when the poems are not necessarily about women, it's the underlying notion because that's my narrative and the narrative of who I am fighting for.”
For anyone thinking of following in her path, Lady Narrator says, “My advice would be to do avid research on local open mic/art spaces for those interested to at least attend and get a sense of the vibe. Those spaces are remarkable when used appropriately, and by that I mean connect with people. Make friends. Ask for advice or suggestions on other spaces. Listen, listen, listen. You learn so much by listening to other poets, not just on resources, but in creativity too. As an audience member, you soak up so much inspiration and knowledge too.”
And since spoken word performances are moving for both the authors and the audience, here are a few pointers for people who may be going for the first time:
“For first time listeners at spoken word events, the biggest piece of advice is listen with every fiber of your being. It's not just about hearing someone on stage. It's recognizing the gravity of your presence. The artist is sharing a piece of their souls with you and for so many of us artists, it's not necessarily a life or path we chose, but rather our means of survival and activism. We speak on truths affecting lives like feminism, sexual assault, black lives matter, immigration, refugees, politics, religion, and so much more. It's about respecting this form of expression like any other.”
You can follow Lady Narrator's journey on instagram here.