Melissa Rose has been a member of the spoken word community since 2001 and has been organizing spoken word events and facilitating creative writing workshops for over 10 years. Melissa was a team member and coach of Palo Alto’s National Poetry Slam Team in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2014. She has performed her poetry all over the United States and Germany, was a featured poet at the German National Poetry Slam in 2010 and a Group Piece Finalist at The National Poetry Slam in 2014. Her poetry has been featured in a variety of magazines and international poetry anthologies. She is currently the Executive Director of S.I.R.E.N. a non profit program that empowers teen girls through spoken word.
Fem: What are some rewards of performing spoken word?
Melissa Rose: I feel like the rewards to performing spoken word pieces are the connection with audiences. The ability to be honest with your audience and draw similarities to ourselves as sharing a genuine human experience. When I write my pieces, I know some people in an audience may not have had the same experiences as I have, but they can still identify with me when I am being fully present, authentic, and truthful about those experiences. I think spoken word as an art form is a fantastic way to educate others because it is based on human connection, so information is easier to hear and process.
F: How do you decide on your topics for your poetry?
MR: When I am writing poems, I usually either draw from personal experiences; memories, reflection, or my opinions. Other times I think about a situation I am interested in exploring further and do some research until I find a thread I connect with emotionally to expand on and use as a way to discover more about my own feelings about that topic or situation. I feel like to effectively write about anything, I need to find that emotional connection or perspective. I enjoy writing poems that make people think, or shift their thinking, especially about topics they might have already formed strong opinions on.
F: What is Siren?
MR: Siren (Speech Igniting Revolutionarily Empowering Narratives) is a non-profit organization intended to showcase the voices of teen girls. We use storytelling as a tool through a variety of mediums; spoken word, playwriting, acting, visual art, and digital media in order to inspire girls to feel empowered by their opinions, experiences, and voices. I was compelled to start this organization because of my own personal experiences as a teen. I entered into spoken word when I was about 15, was one of the few women, and was by far the youngest person performing in my local scene. I feel like, looking back, I was isolated by my age and experiences, and had a hard time really connecting with the adults that surrounded me in my group of artistic peers. I wanted to create a safe place for girls like me to not only create, perform and grow as artists, but to feel supported by their peers and forge a community of young women who truly uplift one another.
F: Why are creative arts necessary for the development of young people?
MR: I feel like (and I remember) that being young and creative can be challenging. There is a lot happening to young people, especially during the adolescent and teen years. They are growing and changing in so many ways; they are learning new things about themselves and exploring identities, thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beginning to craft who they are, what they stand for, and what they want to do with their lives. It is such an exciting and important time, which is why I feel like providing many different creative outlets is an essential part of helping young people transition into strong adults. There are so many ways to express yourself, and expression takes many forms, but the main reason why Siren is a program that provides many different creative mediums is that sometimes exposure to a new method of self expression is just what one needs to bring more self awareness , understanding, and joy to one’s life. I feel like people are naturally creative, and just giving a space to be creative is healing and that ripples out to the greater community.