Through Their Eyes: Spoken Word Poet Gowri K.
The interview series “Through Their Eyes” features various artists at the 2017 Folklife Festival. Whether they express their truths through spoken word or acrobatics, these artists share a part of themselves in every performance.
“The first time I performed was when I was in college, and I totally blacked out. I mean, I was completely sober, but when I got off stage, I turned to my friend and I was like, ‘what happened up there?’ Like, I know the woman introduced me, I got on stage, I started talking—and then I don’t remember anything. I remember clapping and getting off stage. Like, I could’ve just stood there and cried.”
For Tamil American poet and lawyer Gowri K., poetry molds a space of escape and advocacy. When I sat down with Gowri after her performance at the Folklife Festival’s On the Move program, I saw the same strength and fire she performed with radiate as we discussed what it meant to be a spoken word poet.
Gowri told me her parents immigrated to the United States from Sri Lanka, so her multicultural identity inspired her to write the poem “How to Be a Model Minority.” The poem delves into the experiences and struggles of what it means to “be American,” to belong to two worlds and yet feel alienated in both. For Gowri, performing her own story allows her to conjure up the same emotions she feels in her audience. Built from anger, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, poems craft a reservoir of uncensored truth.
Laura Zhang is a student at the University of Texas at Austin studying neuroscience and Plan II Honors. She is an intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and exudes a passion for social justice, stories, and dogs of all kinds. Audio recorded and mastered by Dave Walker.