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Michigan poets trade places in "Lost Voices"

Jul 15, 2015


Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley’s performance poem “Lost Voices” took third place at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.

Speaking in each other’s voices, the two Eastern Michigan University students tear into reproductive rights, racism, white privilege, and more.

In their performance, Simpson and Bostley take a breath to start speaking into their microphones before abruptly switching places and voicing each other’s experiences.

Simpson says the duo was inspired by another poem in which the performers mouthed each others' words, and they used that idea to craft a poem about speaking for others.

The main message of their performance, Simpson says, is to show the audience that “this is what you look like when you’re speaking for someone.”

Both Bostley and Simpson’s parts of the poem draw on personal experiences and things they’ve seen other women and black men go through.

“At Eastern, women are the majority. There’s 64% women on that campus. And all of those different stanzas that are my lines are things I witnessed,” Bostley says.

“I kept being aware of my race in these different situations,” Simpson tells us, “and had it not been for these situations my blackness wouldn’t have been something of an insecurity, or I felt was a crime, or that I thought about on a consistent basis.”

They say that stepping into each other’s shoes was an educational experience, if at first uncomfortable.

Bostley tells us that the first time she said the line, “the first day I realized I was black,” she “definitely giggled.” But overall both agree that putting this piece together taught them a lot about how to be supportive of people struggling through situations different from their own and that there is inherently a limit to the depth of their own understanding.

“[The words] never felt right coming out of my mouth,” Bostley says, “but … it helped me understand how to be on the sidelines and help out in different movements, different situations, all going toward the same goal of equality and justice, but never stepping on toes and never saying, actually meaning, ‘the first day I realized I was black,’ because I’ll never be able to say that and mean it.”

Simpson explains that the two aren’t suggesting that people shouldn’t speak out for one another, but that in doing so there is the danger of losing sight of an individual’s experiences.

Simpson and Bostley each look forward to writing and performing poetry for as long as they can.

“I hope to continue to perform as long as my voice can carry,” Simpson says.

“I will always perform, I will always write,” Bostley tells us. “That’s just who I am."