St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) was lucky enough to have spoken word poet Katie Wirsing as a guest, along with her very well travelled, adorable baby, on Oct. 1, 2018 at Cole Cinema. Wirsing’s poetry is vivid and touching, reminiscent of fond memories with her father and her not-so-tolerant grandmother, along with recent memories of her husband and her journey with her queer activism. Wirsing’s poetry also allowed her develop her own identity as her high school’s infamous “lezbian,” incorrectly spelled out by Wirsing for dramatic effect.
Wirsing’s strained father-daughter relationship was a subject she referenced often, especially when it came to her sexuality, but she did highlight the special moments they shared when he attended the gay pride parade with her while visiting Colorado despite being sick with cancer. She is honest in her work, recognizing that life is not always easy or perfect, but manages to craft her pain into her work, intertwining the good and bad into a mini-masterpiece she performs while she travels.
Wirsing admits that the poems she chooses to perform change as she travels, yet still engaged her audience by storytelling the memories she grew up with while setting up the introductions to her poems. Wirsing felt more comfortable in comparison to other presenters that have visited the College by posing questions for the audience to answer inside of her performance.
Instead of feeling like a presence that demanded your undivided attention, Wirsing openly engaged with the emotions and responses from the audience and allowed herself to deviate from a schedule. She admitted to going on tangents leading her astray from the original topic of her poems, but the pieces she presented packed a punch with her struggles with big topics such as religion and family as well as the unwelcome, intrusive scrutiny she faces from friends on Facebook who view her life from afar.
Wirsing has a unique sense of humor, telling her listeners about how her eight-month-old baby has been on over twenty airplane trips across the country to attend the presentations she gives. She is still adamant though about entertaining the excitement of the flight attendants when they assume it is the baby’s first plane ride. She joked that the amount of little plastic airplane wings they give to newborns is starting to clutter her house, comparing her excessive amount of wings to the one or two that typical families get when flying with a baby. Wirsing also admits to hopelessly signing up for contests and always checking her phone despite not knowing the caller identification, hoping to someday win a grand prize— or just for the sake of not missing out on possible life events.
Wirsing ended her presentation with validating her own emotional vulnerability and recognizing that every person deserves to be loved fully and completely, stating that she “isn’t fragile,” although the very nature of her career demands it of her. Her honesty and friendly nature, such as asking audience members to add her as a contact on social media, made watching her performance worthwhile and inspired me to take more time reflecting on my own experiences with similar topics.