The Personhood Project Episode 11: Taylor Byas
For episode 11, host, Aaron Tyler Hand, is joined by poet Taylor Byas. In this episode, Byas offers insight into her forthcoming full-length collection I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times, as well as two forthcoming anthologies she is co-editing, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. X: Alabama and Poemhood: Our Black Revival. The two also discuss the places we call home and the ways one can find home in spaces that feel foreign to them. In their conversation about poetry, they talk about giving ourselves permission to experiment with our poetry, appreciating different voices and styles of poetry, and the importance of holding the door open for them all.
I'm motivated to write about my experiences because I have no doubt there is a Black woman or little Black girl or little Black teenager that needs (my work) and it might change her life when she comes across it.
My hair My body My smile
as women were supposed to meet
the requirements of society’s
interpretations of beautiful. Society
doesn’t know my heart. Society
doesn’t know my innocence.
The innocence that was taken
so long ago. The innocence
that’s taken now.
As I walk by I see a tall woman, her smile
looks dull, not knowing what it is she is thinking of,
arms to her sides swinging and swaying side by side
her eyes as bright as a star that shimmers in the sky,
her hair is shiny and swipes by her eyes, the
walk she takes with pride each stride.
As I walk by I see a women who I don’t understand
is she truly mad or just sad or maybe she’s just
I don’t want to pop-out –
I feel closed in…
Keep smiling – respond
to hello – & walk away.
If only they knew –
My heart is broken –
I’m lost, sad, & alone.
Away from everyone
I feel safe – – –
don’t have to explain.
End the day – –
& try again tomorrow.
If I were a superhero
I’d be Jesus.
Continuing to save
those that society doesn’t
approve of, the homeless, the addicts.
I’d Be the Superhero of Addiction
I’d have the power to hypnotize
so the villains would forget why they
were attacking in the first place.
I’d swoop in and save the ones that
wouldn’t ever be saved, the homeless
the less fortunate.
If I were a hero…
Who would I save? I think i’d save people like
myself. People who have no hope, people who
are in so much pain that the pain of a
needle stabbing into their veins feels good because
they know that the fluid in their needle will
save them from having to feel anything – even if
it’s only for a few hours. I’d also help people
that get hurt by others just for being themselves.
People like gay men and women, trans men and women,
autistics. Pretty much anyone who have been
hurt by so many words, they fear using the
wrong words because they fear hurting someone
the way they’ve been hurt. I’d give others
strength. That’d be my superpower. To give
them the strength they need to live one more day.
Strength they need to move into a more
positive part of their life.
Taylor Byas’s poem Resting Bitch Face examines the ways strangers interact with her on a day to day basis. As a Black woman in America, she still feels the weight of this country's history in the eyes of the people who look at her. Outside of that, as a woman she too often gets men asking her to smile, when really, she knows their intentions aren’t as simple as their words. Write a poem about how people see you. When strangers see you in the street how do you feel that they see you? What features do they notice, what words do they say? Most importantly, how does it make you feel when they see you that way? What real you are they missing?
In I Don’t Care If Mary Jane Gets Saved Or Not, Byas images what it would be like for her, as a Black woman, to be in a comic book. Factoring in the history of America, she theorizes that even in a comic book she wouldn’t be the one that the superhero saves. She would still be seen as a perpetrator, someone that gets the cops called on them, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. Taking this poem in a slightly different direction, picture yourself as a comic book superhero. Which people are you saving that you know aren’t typically getting saved in other comic books? What powers do you have that aid in their rescue? Have fun with this prompt and let your imagination show!