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Essie Linzy is studying poetry at Columbia College in Chicago. Linzy came in second in last year's Louder Than a Bomb competition.

Poetry as a bridge between gay teen and her mother

by Di Dinnis and Robyn Murray
Mar 5, 2013


Robyn Murray/MEDILL

Robyn Murray/MEDILL

Hear Essie Linzy perform her poem "Rosie."

Di Dinnis/MEDILL

Essie Linzy talks about learning acceptance through Louder Than a Bomb.

Essie Linzy wrote the poem "Rosie" because, as a black, gay woman, she says people take away her femininity because of the way she dresses.

She’s never encountered bullying as part of the LGBTQA community, but she says her family didn’t understand when she first told them she was gay.

Poetry is her outlet.

“I think the one thing I have done is make my mom and my family understand who I am more,” she said. “When I told them I was gay they were just, like, ‘OK.’ I purposely invite them to everything to hear what I do.”

She says coming out was hard experience for her.

“I’m the youngest – everyone’s like, ‘Oh, the baby.’ And I was just like, ‘I knew it.’ So I was like, ‘When am I gonna tell them this and they’re just gonna realize I’m not a baby anymore,’ and it would, like, all flip.”

She said her relationship with her mom changed after that.

“We were really close and then it, like, went away,” she said.

Their relationship is getting better though. Her mother even shared with her a poem she wrote last week. Linzy says her mom is learning a lot about the gay community.

“It’s crazy to me, the words she used before about gay people. And now she’s like donating to the Human Rights Campaign. I think poetry has helped that. She didn’t understand it [before].”

Linzy came in second place last year at the Louder Than a Bomb individual finals.

“I feel like a person can go around rambling, saying stuff about how they feel, political views, but when it’s through poetry, people listen to you because you’re saying it in such a way that’s new and creative.”

Fellow participant Dominique James met Linzy two years ago at LTAB. She’s seen her evolve as a writer. She has also been part of workshops Linzy helps teach at Young Chicago Authors.

“She was always really good at wordplay. She reads a lot more now and incorporates the things she sees there and is just a better performer. [She’s] expanding her toolbox and then, as a teacher, becoming more comfortable teaching other people the tools.”

Linzy, who lives with her mom, grew up on the West Side of Chicago. She says she doesn’t talk to her dad. She’s written a lot of poems about her relationship with her family.

She laughs when asked about her life without poetry.

“Oh, that’s crazy. I wouldn’t want to think about that.”