Friday, June 29, 2012


Thursday night, around 2 am, when I was still awake playing solitaire on my iPod, I had this sudden realization. I won, I thought. I won third place in the Rexburg Poetry Slam. Holy crap. HOLY CRAP. THIRD PLACE. And then I stayed awake for another 10 minutes, letting the adrenaline finish coursing. Then I finally fell asleep. It was like my brain had to finish processing the event, and when it had come to that realization, I could sleep. 

Anyway, I know it's the tiny Rexburg Poetry Slam. But I told Jacob last night that if I could sum up the experience in one word, it would be validating. I think I could go through my whole life being fairly confident in my abilities as a poet. I am not Anne Sexton or Robert Frost or Sylvia Plath. But I am Liz Chapman, and I'm a pretty decent poet. But it was a pretty awesome experience to have a whole room full of people think so too. I'm really really grateful. And I was also very impressed with the other poets there, and honored to be there with them.

Especially since standing in front of people and performing your poetry is just about the scariest thing ever. I was chatting with some of the other poets (who were all incredibly talented) and we had this conversation: 

Me - Someone once said that acting is standing in front of an audience, completely naked, and rotating slowly. I've always agreed, but after doing this, I don't think acting is that. Because you have a costume. POETRY is standing naked and rotating slowly. 
Other Poet - Yeah. It's like you're naked AND on fire. 

True story. 

Anyway, here's the poem I performed. I also did one about a pig for the finalist round, but posting two poems feels like tooting my own horn way more than I already am, so I'll just post this one. This poem was the first one I ever wrote with the idea of performing it in mind. It was actually totally different, and then I did it for my sister Beckah and she gave me a brilliant critique and I changed a ton. So I guess half of that free pie-shake I won Thursday night goes to Beckah. 

Marginalia, or “You Dear Sweet Fragile Little Thing”

I mean,
Billy Collins said it was one thing,
but here
is what it means.

It means margarine instead of butter in all the bread
she baked for 20 years
in the oven that could have ended everything
at any moment
had she stayed leaning down
for long enough
just long enough.
Just by a slim margin
long enough.

Another girl,
she was only 14 but
they put her in the margins
when they said
you are responsible for that man’s thoughts
don’t bare your ankles
and don’t lean over your books
that way
you’ll get top-heavy, girl.

When my sister was born
people put her in the margins.
They told her
what color was her color
without looking into her eyes
to see every light-spectrum color there
in a pattern that was all her own,
coloring outside all the lines
that they tried to give her
when they said
“This is a man’s world.”

And me.
Me, I have walked through
my own garage under
the heavy stare of a man
who was there to fix the air
when I was 16 years old
and didn’t know what it was
he was thinking about my teenage legs.
And if I could
walk past him again,
I would start reciting
Shakespeare at the top of my lungs
just to show him
how much godhood these two legs
are actually holding up.

My friends,
there are women who
are wearing makeup and
Beatles t-shirts beneath their
despite the fact that no one will see them,
despite the fact that they cannot drive a car,
despite the fact that they cannot appear in public alone
they wear what they want just to scream to themselves
that they still have a choice.

My friends,
when the magazines
tell you what position
will give you power
they are telling you
to try to change the world
from the margins.

But you
you are
words that belong
not between the lines
but all over that page.
And when they say
don’t bare your ankles
and when they say
try this position
and when they say
this is your color
you tell them
it is your book
you tell them
it is your page
and you tell them
that your words
were meant to be read. 

Also, last night was the final push of validation I needed to make this announcement: 

This is a mock-up cover design for the book of poetry I've decided to self-publish. Like, available on and maybe even at the Idaho Falls Barnes and Noble self-publish (but I'll get a higher royalty if you buy it from createspace...I'll tell you more about that later). I've spent a lot of time researching and thinking about this, and I've decided to go for it. It'll probably be available sometime in the Fall. (I've actually been working on it for a while...) Just in time for Christmas.

So blog-readers, start saving money now! I promise I'll make this as affordable as possible, though, so you probably don't actually need to start saving money now. This book will have some new stuff and some old stuff and maybe some art stuff. I'll keep ya posted!


Anna Harrison said...

Liz! I love it. I read your poem a few times already I loved it so much. And how exciting! A book! I'll buy it :)

K + J said...


Annie McNeil said...

That is so awesome, LizWhit. I wish I could have been there. I don't suppose anyone recorded it?

" he could see just how much goodhood these two legs are holding up."

Fabulous line. (Sorry if that's not verbatim; I wish the comments section showed the OP.)

tyler, terrah and miles said...

I love your poem, Liz! You are a great poet, and I will definitely buy your book.

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