10 Poets you should get to know

Brooke Gerbers Photo by @renowedphotos

I’m a lifelong lover of spoken word. I remember, as a child listening to my uncle’s Gil Scott Heron albums with my cousins. It was so much fun until we got caught by our aunt. As an adult, my love for spoken word has not wavered. I’m working on a book of poetry and performing spoken word. One day my name will end up on someone’s favorite list, we shall see. In the meantime, check out my list of 10 poets you should know. As you examine their stories, consider reaching out to them to learn more. 

Photo by @renowedphotos

BROOKE GERBERS

Don’t Underestimate her Poetic Prowess

I became familiar with Seattle, Washington, resident Brooke Gerbers on July 3. The self-described queer feminist poet was a contestant at Black Alphabet NFP and The Esteem Awards‘ inaugural Poetry Slam. The moment she stepped on the stage and opened her mouth, it became clear she had come to collect our prize money.

“When I walk into a room or onto a stage, that’s been a common theme in poetry and life in general,” she said.” I take that as an opportunity to show them, yes, I am all of these things, but I can still blow your fucking socks off. ” 

Here’s what she shared about her influences, why putting your best foot forward when competing in slam is important, and what’s next.

PrideIndex (PI): How are you today?

Brooke Gerbers (BG): I’m good. How are you?

PI: Pretty good. I am so happy to have you on the phone after you agreed to this interview. I recently saw you on stage at our poetry slam here in Chicago on July 3. You were phenomenal.

BG: Thank you. It was so that was my first time in Chicago. It was great.

PI: It was your first time in Chicago, but not your first time on stage.

BG: No, no, definitely not the first time on stage.

PI: Let’s start off by having you give us your background and where it brought you to where you are today.

BG: I started slam in 2019 in San Diego, California. I entered the slam scene aggressively, meaning that for the first time on a stage, I competed against Rudy Francisco, which we all know is a world-renowned poet. I didn’t know that at the time. People told to me afterwards, and I was like, Oh shit. Okay, that was a big deal. But yeah, I got into this slam scene in San Diego from 2019 to early 2023, minus the COVID bout. I got to compete and perform with Rudy and Saint, another well-renowned poet, and Natasha Hooper. She was also the number two poet in the world in 2018, a lot of very good mentors that I had. And then from the slam scene, I was recognized on social media by different organizations that asked me to come out and do some shows with them. So, I’ve gotten to travel all over the West – San Diego, LA, Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, and do my thing on stages all around the country, and then Chicago, so that was super fun.

PI: Okay, it was your first time competing in slam, and you weren’t intimidated by some of those other well-known poets. I understand you did not know beforehand, but you had the attitude of, I will go out there and do my own thing. 

BG: So after, once I figured it out, I was like, this is probably the hardest it’s ever going to be, and I just did it. If I already did the most challenging thing, I could keep going, and it’ll be fine from here on out. If that makes sense. I can keep going, and it’s going to be okay. That was my mindset.

PI: What factors influenced your decision to become a poet in the spoken word space? 

BG: Yeah, I remember coming across Button Poetry which is every spoken word poet’s story. Right? I came across Button Poetry in high school, randomly on YouTube. I watched the videos; Rudy was one of them. Ollie Schminkey was another one, they were saying things out loud in front of crowds I had never spoken to. I was like, wow, this is a very cool space. This is a very cool thing to be in. I was into poetry in high school and then in college. I moved to San Diego after college. There was a monthly poetry slam in San Diego, and my friends said, “You should come with us to this slam.” I went to the slam, and the poets made me cry, laugh, and be angry. At the end of the night, I said, I want to be them; I don’t just want to come and listen to them. I want to be them. I went home that night, wrote my first spoken word-ish poem, and completed that next month. I was allowed to say things that I never talked about as a kid.

Photo from Black Alphabet and The Esteem Awards Poetry Slam July 1. The poets in a three-way tie for first place (from left to right) Goddess Warrior The Poet, Urban Legin’d Obasaki and Brooke Gerbers.

PI: Have you published anything or considered publishing or recording yourself?

BG: I’m actually published in three different anthologies. 

The San Diego Poetry Annual is an anthology used in every university in Southern California. I have a poem published there. 

Poets Underground, a smaller publishing company in San Diego. I have three poems published there. 

– And there’s another small press, Querencia Press, which did a queer trans, non-binary and feminist anthology that I submitted to, and I have five poems published there.

PI: Do you also have a website or social media where you actually share your work?

BG: No website. Most of my work is shared on my social media platforms. Instagram (@bthe.poet) has more of my written work. I have a large following on TikTok (@bthe.poet). That’s where I share more of the spoken word pieces.

PI: If your poet style were a drink. What kind of drink would it be? 

BG: A Paloma because it’s a bit bitter; it makes you scrunch up your face slightly. But then it has that smooth finish where you’re like, “Oh, okay, I can handle this. I can digest it. This is fine.”

Brooke Gerbers Photo Courtesy of Black Alphabet NFP

PI: And speaking about sneaking up on you. As I saw you on stage at the poetry slam in Chicago, I thought, who is this little girl? She’s so cute. And I’ll be damned you got up there and fuckin’ destroyed that damn stage!

BG: (Laughs). So yeah, being this small white woman in this slam scene differs from what you come across. I’m very much aware of that. I’ve been in enough spaces where I know that my presence is an outlier. It allows me to feel like people are under estimating me already. People underestimate me. When I walk into a room or onto a stage, that’s been a common theme in poetry and life in general. I take that as an opportunity to show them, yes, I am all of these things, but I can still blow your fucking socks off. (Laughs). I love that; I look at it as a challenge.

PI: Who are some artistic influences that have influenced your style?

BG: I’d definitely say Ollie Schminkey. Ollie is one of the Button Poets I grew up watching, and I still watch and follow them. They have so much raw emotion in everything they do. And that’s what poetry is, right? It’s all of the emotion and pouring it out. They’re very good at that and making people feel what they feel. And so that’s been my primary influence, with, my spoken word style.

PI: Do you have plans to appear in any future anthologies?

BG: My goal is to self-publish in the fall. That way, I will have a physical thing I can take with me and promote myself at different shows and stuff I do. And I’m always submitting my work to other contests. 

PI: What about upcoming appearances in the next couple of months?

BG: I have a poetry reading on August 30 in Seattle at Underbelly. I’m working on videography projects like a videography poetry collab with a friend right now. I will be at Fremont Abbey between September, October, and November. I applied. They loved me and wanted me to come on. So that’ll be fun and exciting. And I want to make it up to Vancouver at some point because they have a weekly poetry slam.

PI: What advice would you give someone who wanted to get into spoken word and perform on stage in front of a live audience? 

BG: Honestly, that sounds so cliché, so I apologize in advance, but just do it. You can’t put too much thought into it; you can’t psych yourself out. The very cool thing about poetry and art, in general, is that regardless of whether the room loves you, there will be one person whose words stick in their brain, and it will be something they need to hear. When I go into new spaces like I did at Black Alphabet, I knew they might not love me, and that’s okay. I just want to say something that one person needs to hear. At any time, a person can be that vulnerable. To go up on a stage and support whatever’s going on inside, to the outside, is a courageous and miraculous thing. My advice is to just do it, push aside everything that tells you, you can’t do it, shut it down, stomp on it, hide it under the bed, whatever you got to do, do it once. The rest of it will be a lot easier. And even if you do it once and realize it isn’t your thing, that’s great. That’s fine. At least you still got up and did it. 

PI: What takeaway do you want audiences to retain from your work?

BG: A lot of my poetry is walking you through many of the problematic areas that I have, that I’ve had in my life, or the demanding situations that have happened, things like that. I never walk into a room thinking everyone will resonate with what I’m saying and love me. But if I can impact one person, I’m doing my job being on stage. The takeaway that I want them to have is, if they come into that space, where they’re in one of those difficult times of their life, or they’re in what seems to be like an inescapable situation, they can look at me and listen to what I’m saying and say and think, oh she was there. And now she’s here. She was in this challenging situation. She was in this very inescapable part of her life and got out of it. And so, if I’m there too, I can get out of it. 

Tiktok: @bthe.poet

Instagram: @bthe.poet

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 2: Her Storie: An interview of spoken words’ leading lady Storie Devereaux

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 3: Sunshine of my life, A conversation with Sunshine Lombre

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 4: Introducing the Millennial Poet named B.

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 5: Fantastic Voyage: One-on-one with Motown Poet Urban Legin’d Obasaki

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 6: Just call her Dark N-Lovely, An interview of Chicago Poet Tarnynon Onumonu

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 7: Talking LOVE with activist & poet Michelle Antoinette Nelson

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 8: Poetry In Motion: An interview of Goddess Warrior

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 9: Ebony Stewart

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 10: Vision