This poet makes the internet a better place
Why you should follow spoken-word poet Christi Steyn
Here’s the fourth and final segment from Friday’s episode with BioHacked: Family Secrets host T.J. Raphael, a follow recommendation that I hope will give you clarity and peace of mind in this ludicrous week. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the Twitter acquisition by you-know-who in tomorrow’s newsletter, but for now … let’s just enjoy some poetry.
And don’t forget that you can get an extra follow recommendation from T.J. when you support Follow Friday by donating any amount on Patreon! In the patron-exclusive version of the podcast, T.J. talks about a super-talented comedian who's still under the radar, but who she believes should be a household name.
ERIC: We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for "someone who makes the internet a better place," and you said Christi Steyn, who is on TikTok and Instagram @Christi.Steyn. Christi is a spoken word poet, which is not a type of person we hear about a lot in this podcast, so I love this. I want to hear about this. What do you like about Christi and about her poems, specifically?
TJ: Yeah, I just find her poetry to be beautiful; it's gorgeous. I think her delivery in how she reads her poems and presents them to her followers and to her audience. It feels really different from what I've seen everyone else kind of doing on the internet. And that's one of the reasons I love her. And I find her work to just be heartfelt, emotional, deeply touching, and I've fallen down rabbit holes where I've watched so many of her videos and I'm like wow, this is just beautiful.
And spoken word poetry as a medium, whether it's on the internet or even in person, is, I don't wanna call it a dying art form, but I don't feel like there are many super-popular spoken-word poets, and so I just think it's beautiful. It feels to me sometimes that it hearkens back to something simpler where I'm just going to deliver these powerful words to you. Rupi Kaur is another poet that I love, she has several books, but she does spoken word poetry during her book readings. And I also follow her on Instagram and love her work.
But Christi is sort of a lesser-known poet than Rupi is, and is up and coming, and that's why I wanted to give her a shout out. Rupi Kaur really got me back into poetry and the idea of spoken word poetry. So I just definitely wanna give her credence. But Christi is sort of another one, who I think has less of a following and is up and coming. And I also just find her words wonderfully beautiful.
ERIC: Yeah, you were saying earlier that pre-pandemic, you were a big standup comedy fan, just going out to all these shows, constantly seeing new standup comics. Spoken-word poetry is ... I assume in a big city like New York, there are venues where you can go and you can regularly find talented poets. But I also feel like there's just not as much of a guaranteed future for live poetry as there is for comedy. Some people are intimidated by the idea of poetry or they're not as willing, I think, to show up and maybe pay up to see a poet who might challenge them, who might unsettle them as they would be for someone who's going to make them laugh, give them an escape.
TJ: Right, even in New York, there are definitely venues to see spoken word poetry, but the shows even pre-pandemic were fewer and far between, because I just don't think it's a medium that lots of young people or artists who wanna get famous on the internet consider for themselves.
And also, spoken-word poetry is a difficult medium to consume. It's very thought-heavy, it's not just like "oh, here's a joke and here's the punchline," you have to be very attentive in your listening. You know, as somebody who likes podcasts, who works in podcasting, I like listening to things and hearing people talk very much. But yeah, I think it's not as common as a medium.
I'm hoping that spoken word poetry will become more popular. Especially if you look at someone like Amanda Gorman, who was I think the inaugural youth poet for President Biden last year when he was inaugurated and she read that beautiful poem and received such acclaim. I actually went out and bought her book after that because I loved watching her deliver that poem.
Maybe we're on the precipice of a revival of spoken word poetry and sort of beatnik poets who are out there. I would love to go see people deliver beautiful messaging in this creative and artistic way. So that's one of the reasons I follow Christi because it feels like a breath of fresh air when I see her posts come across my feed.
ERIC: That's what I was gonna say, if we are going to be on the precipice of a revival here that it might happen more on Instagram and TikTok, right? Because in Christi's videos, when she's performing one of her poems, the words are fading in over her, as she's talking. So you are both listening and whether you have the sound on or not, you are seeing the poem as it unfolds. And I think that's maybe kind of a perfect on-ramp for someone who doesn't read or wouldn't attend a live poetry show. Like if they're able to get a poem that way, I feel like there's a lot of potential there for Christi and for other poets to connect with people who maybe never would have experienced their work before.
TJ: I completely agree. I think maybe somebody who would never sit down and read a book of poetry or a blog or something like that with posts of poems, would watch a video, like something from Christi or something from Amanda Gorman or from Rupi Kaur and share it and say wow, isn't this beautiful. So yeah, I hope any of the spoken word poets out there listening, do your thing, I want more.
ERIC: Well, before we wrap up, I wanted to edit in one of Christi's poems. Do you have a favorite that we should put in here?
TJ: Yeah, this poem by Christi, I think it's called "there's nothing wrong with you." And I really love this poem because one of the things she says in the poem is "I don't wanna hate myself for not being happy, some days are for sadness." And especially in our very online world, in a world where we are living our best life and presenting ourselves in a way where we're always happy, we're always thriving, I think there's something very real and honest, and sometimes I am sad or sometimes things are not going my way and I can still love my life and be happy even if that's the case. I think she brings a real softness to that idea. And I just appreciate it and I appreciate the depth and complexity of the idea that she's putting forward.
ERIC: Beautifully said.
[clip from video]
CHRISTI STEYN: I am learning to love myself on unlovable days. I allow myself to go slow, choosing kindness instead of judgment. I won't hate myself for not being happy. Some days are for sadness, and when sadness comes, I expose my heart and ask her to talk: What can I do for you? You are safe here. You are safe here. I know how exhausting joy can seem. She will appear again, soon, without trying. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you.