Discovering themselves through poetry

Local

Myles Taylor brings their personal experience into their written work, whether it’s slam poetry or an upcoming book on toxic masculinity.

Myles Taylor performs Courtesy/Marshall Goff

Before going on stage to perform their poems, Myles Taylor (who uses they/them pronouns) always covers their face in glitter and dresses in an over-the-top outfit.

“I just really like being flashy,” they said. “It’s like battle armor.”

They put glitter on their team members’ faces as well for good luck before they perform. Taylor is a self-described glitter enthusiast and has an eye for fashion. Currently, they are dressed in an oversized button-up shirt printed with a collage of photos, text, and headlines from newspapers, as they sip from a patterned white mug in a small café.

“One of the only things that got me out of bed in high school was putting an outfit together and dressing fun and weird and wonky, because that just made me happy,” they said.

Taylor is a 24-year-old poet based in Boston, who identifies as transmasculine, which lies underneath the umbrella of non-binary, but they mostly lean toward their masculine side.

Writing poems helped them figure out their identity. At age 19, between their freshman and sophomore year of college, they started using they/them pronouns. A year later, they started using the name Myles.

“One day, I started looking in the mirror seeing a guy,” Taylor said. “And the first thing I did was write a poem about it.”

Taylor often writes about personal and vulnerable topics, from their own experiences to mental health, to the nuances of living as a nonbinary individual. They tell stories that are raw, relatable, and sometimes surprising.

“Sometimes when I’m writing about something, my writing knows stuff about me that I don’t. I’ll discover something by writing about it,” they said. “It’s a really spooky feeling.”

They’ve been a member of the Boston Poetry Slam, a local slam competition group that competes nationally, since 2016, and graduated from Emerson College in 2018, where they competed nationally with the Emerson Poetry Project since their freshman year.

Slam poetry is a very distinct form of competitive spoken word. According to Taylor, it was born in Chicago in an attempt to make poetry less posh and white-collar and more accessible to the public. They’d select judges at random from the pool of silhouettes in the audience, and they’d judge the poets’ performance on a scale out of ten.

The idea is that no matter who enters the café from off the street, even if they’ve never read a poem before, their opinion of the art is important. But Taylor points out that there have long been problems with the randomly assigned judge selection process. It’s common that the group of judges aren’t diverse, and poets reciting poems that the judges can’t relate to, even if it’s performed well, it could cost them points.

One year at nationals, Taylor and a teammate performed a poem about transgender issues to a group of cisgender male judges. They got laughed at and received very low scores. But at the end of the tournament, after bringing the issue of judge selection up to the tournament officials, the pair got to perform their piece in front of everyone who attended the tournament.

“Everyone knew why we were there. Everyone knew what happened to us, so they gave us a standing ovation,” Taylor said. “I kept crying because I just couldn’t, like, handle that amount of support.”

Finding their voice

Taylor had been performing poetry long before they arrived at Emerson.

Taylor always knew they were going to be a writer. They grew up in an artistic family, with stacks of books filling their home, almost looking like a library. Their roughed-up split home was found on the same street as mansions in the wealthy suburban town of Demarest, New Jersey.

They got their start in high school performing at a local café outside of their hometown called the Cool Bean Café.

“I was this 15-year-old yelling my poems at the audience,” they said. “And people…loved it.”

The first time they ever performed on stage was their sophomore year of high school, when a literary club hosted an open mic night. They performed in front of a large group of classmates, feeling apprehensive that their peers would make fun of them.

“After I did it there was just this collective of everyone holding their breath…everyone just had a weird moment of awe,” Taylor said. “It was this huge moment of realizing my power.”

Taylor recalls the moment they found out they made Emerson’s national slam team their first year — a big achievement for a small freshman.

That experience led to the decision to make a living writing poetry, promoting it from just a hobby. The following school year, they switched their concentration from magazine journalism to poetry.

But they didn’t start out the year doing well or getting good scores. At first, Taylor would get so nervous before performing that they’d run back and forth down the hallway to get their nerves out. Their poems weren’t meeting the standard length. But over time, the poems got better, and Taylor accumulated enough points to make the team.

“They’ve just become exponentially better at writing in an insane way,” said Lip Manegio, one of Myles’ closest friends and an Emerson Poetry Project teammate. “They also are entirely the reason that I write poetry.”

Spreading the word

Manegio described Taylor as “a very Boston poet.” Taylor’s performance style shares many similarities with other local poets – intensity in their voice, strong-arm gestures and remains in one spot of the stage.

For Taylor, writing is therapeutic. It’s cathartic. They write to release emotions, or to process difficult feelings. They describe it as a “brain blast” of inspiration — when they get an idea, they have to stop what they’re doing and start writing. In class, on receipt paper, they always try to carry around a notebook everywhere they go.

Their senior year at Emerson, they discovered Boston Poetry Slam, a local slam group. They immediately became enamored with the culture and competed with that group in addition to their college team, becoming one of the youngest members ever to make the BPS national team.

After graduation, Taylor began hosting slams at the local BPS venue. They also organized their own queer-focused slam series called Moonlight and coached the Lesley University national team.

In a typical year, the Boston Poetry Slam would be deep into its qualifying season for the national competition by now. However, the pandemic has proven difficult for the slam community, and Taylor has taken a step back from poetry. They are now focusing on writing nonfiction, most recently their first book about toxic masculinity.

Although they’ve taken a step back from slam poetry since the pandemic, they work as a teaching assistant for Poetry in America — an online poetry program for high schoolers.

“Inspiring youth to write is one of the coolest things ever,” Taylor said. “It’s incredible what they can do. The creativity is off the charts.”

Currently, they’re working on the manuscript of their first book, which explores the idea of ​​toxic masculinity, and proposes the possibility of non-toxic masculinity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.