Edric Huang, Kathleen Ma, and Mariah Wilson are members of Songline, one of Princeton’s spoken word poetry groups. They’re performing this Thursday at the Art Museum’s event Failed Love, a a celebration of our museum’s artworks that were inspired by heartbreak.
So, Edric and Kathleen, you’re performing together this Thursday at Failed Love. How did you go about writing a spoken word poem together?
Edric: We knew we wanted to do something together, so we started brainstorming about some big themes by talking about our experiences in college so far. We decided to write about imposter syndrome—in particular, how compliments enhance it, and create the feeling of validating something that doesn’t exist.
Kathleen: Yes, absolutely! It sort of fits in as “Failed Love” to ourselves. We thought it would be appropriate with Valentine’s Day coming up—which is a holiday about relationships, but also draws focus to yourself, especially if you’re single.
Mariah, what’s your poem about?
Mariah: Mine is called “Bro.” It deals with being friend-zoned in middle school—that weird, stagnant place between being friends and wanting something more.
Based off personal experience?
M: Oh, yeah. In middle school I had a crush on my best friend. I wrote it about my own experience, but I figured a lot of people have experienced something like that and can relate.
A theme of the night is that heartbreak is an artist’s muse. What role does love play in your poetry?
M: I write about love, but more about familial love and self-love.
E: Definitely self-love, and especially about body image and mental health. Romantic love, too though—when my friends go through heartbreaks, talking to them allows me to revisit my own experiences. But love is often a starting point for other themes, like revenge, that extend farther than specifically relationships.
What inspires your poetry?
M: There are pretty much two types of poems for me—either I have an idea about a specific event, or I’m interested in a topic. The second sometimes takes a bit longer, since there’s no concrete experience to draw from.
K: For me, sometimes I start with a phrase that drops into my head, and I try to flesh out why those words mean something to me and turn that into a poem.
What do you love about performing your poetry?
M: It’s a sort of indescribable feeling when you’re up on stage—it empowers you when people can connect with how you’re feeling. I love that shared moment when the audience is listening to your feelings and they’re feeling it too.
E: It’s ultimately about feeling human when you connect with another person over your poetry—especially since our shows are like us sharing our diaries! It feels like you’re a part of something larger when you send your poem further with your voice, versus writing it down where you can’t feel the impact.
K: Agreed. I love the immediate response you get while performing of feeling all of the emotions in the room together.
What advice do you have for someone experiencing Failed Love?
E: Remind yourself it’s OK to take care of yourself and be selfish when you need to be.
K: Romantic love isn’t the only love that matters. You should have love for yourself and friends—those are just as important, if not more so.
M: Crying is always good, too.