On Wednesday Sept. 27, poet and spoken word artist Ashlee Haze visited the Ursinus campus for an animated and intimate poetry reading and book signing. The poems she performed, like “The Help” and “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem)” centered on her experience as an African-American woman, her childhood influences and role models, and on some of her past relationships. Her collection of poems, Land of the Living, was available for purchase after the performance.
Land of the Living, centers on racism, sexism, and the intersectionality of identity, offering her unapologetic approach to these subjects. With a touch of humor, Haze’s poems mixed serious issues with her own personal voice in order to captivate her audience.
While introducing her set, Haze described her poems, “[They’re] about how I live my life. I write a lot about being a woman of color, being a woman of color in a plus-size body, and those experiences that come with it. I’m going to talk a lot about intersectionality: the intersection of my identities, how they all overlap and how they are not just singular.”
One of her poems, “The Help,” encapsulated the feeling of admiration she had for the women in her family and their strength. Haze talked about the “The Help,” the 2011 film that inspired the poem and gave it its name. She noted that the film resonated with her and with how she thought about her mother and grandmother.
“When I saw that film, it was actually one of the first times that I saw a reflection of a woman I can identify with…I wrote this poem to pay homage to [my mother and grandmother] and to that time in my life,” said Haze.
When asked about the performance, junior Chiara DeMelfi said, “We’ve had a lot of slam poets already this semester and I’m very happy about [that]. And also, I wasn’t expecting to have a good laugh. It was fun.”
Jen Joseph, a sophomore, added, “It’s very nice to be able to get slam poetry in the school because I thought there could have been more of it last year and I have been really liking the new initiative that’s being taken. Because in my high school, slam poetry was a big part of me discovering my identity and so I thought she was incredible. I am very glad I got her book; that is very exciting.”
In response to their favorite aspect of Haze’s set, DeMelfi said, “The puns were my favorite part. She’s very charismatic.”
Haze, who has been a part of the poetry slam circuit in Atlanta, is a full- time poet and artist and has also been a two-time Women of the World Poetry Slam Finalist. Haze is currently the co-slam master for the Java Monkey Slam Team and is the first woman to hold this title. Released in February 2016, Land of the Living is her first full-length collection of poems.