One of the most well-known contemporary African-American poets in the SF bay area, Arisa White can be found performing at one of the many lounges and performing arts centers in the city, including the San Francisco State University Poetry Center. Her poems often express themes such as domestic violence, racism, and her own experiences as a woman of color. In addition to her spoken work, she also published five books of poetry and was featured in three poem anthologies.
Youtube video of Arisa performing for National Poetry Month © PianoFightFilms
Airea Dee Mathews
A champion of The Lit Slam monthly competition in San Francisco, the winner of the Women Of The World Poetry Slam in 2012, and the Kresge Literary Arts Fellow of 2015, Airea Dee Matthews didn’t plan to become a poet, but now she can often be found battling with other local slam poets at Lit Slam in the mission district and at the Royale in Lower Nob Hill. Much of her spoken poetry stems from her experiences growing up in an abusive home, and her self-discovery in becoming a writer. She is currently the executive editor of The Offing Literary Magazine.
Youtube video of Airea performing ‘Wisdom’ © Portalofsouls’s channel
Known as a legend by her fellow slam poets, Rachel McKibbens is an eight-time finalist on the National Poetry Slam competition, the champion of the Women Of The World Poetry slam in 2009, and the winner of the National Underground Poetry Slam in 2011. Her heartbreaking poems address mental health awareness, gender equality, and domestic violence. When she’s not performing her own poetry, she gladly shares her talent with her young pupils as a creative writing instructor and lecturer in different universities across the country. Check out her website to learn more about her and her upcoming shows!
Youtube video of Rachel performing ‘Bruja’s Soliloquy’ © Button Poetry
The woman ranked 13th at the Women Of The World Poetry Slam, Katie Wirsing stirs controversy through her spoken poetry as she tours the world. Her victory on the 2006 National Poetry Slam Championship has inspired her to share her passion in local radio stations and college campuses in San Francisco and the rest of the United States. Her poetry speaks about gender, love, sex, and spirituality. Take a look at her profile on The College Agency website to learn more about her performances!
Youtube video of Katie performing slam poetry © The College Agency
A gender-liminal writer from New York twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Corrina Bain is a slam poet celebrity who makes regular appearances in the many slam poet competitions of San Francisco such as The Lit Slam. Aside from writing her own poetry, which has been published in many anthologies and literary magazines, Corrina is no stranger to humanitarian work such as volunteering in Mozambique to combat the HIV epidemic, working in an abolition clinic, and being trained as a psychiatric social worker.
Youtube video of Corrina performing ‘Pinnochio’ © Button Poetry
Although she just graduated high school this spring, this teen slam poet sensation has already left her mark in the literary community of the Bay Area. Maya Greenhill was one of the top performing slam poets from the Youth Speaks slam poetry contests in April. She is also a stern believer in using poetry as a tool for expressing her own Jewish heritage, her love of biology, and for LGBTQ rights. Her poetry career is just beginning, so come check out the Youth Speaks website for updates on Maya and the other teen slam poets of San Francisco!
Soundcloud audio file of Maya performing her slam poetry © Maya Greenhill
Another talented teen from San Francisco, Melanie Harra skyrocketed into literary fame through her captivating slam poetry performed with Youth Speaks. You can find her working with other upcoming teen slam poets of LGBTQ backgrounds to help them express their experiences to their audiences. One of her most famous spoken poems is When Being A Gay Teen Feels Like You’re Trapped In A Game Of Whack-A-Mole where she performs with her fellow slam poet, Cameron Sanda.
Youtube video of Melanie performing with Cameron © KQED Arts