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Kay Barrett


Kay Barrett
photo by Michelle Alba

Kay Barrett's voice comes from a unique Mestiza identity which is, as she says in her own words, a "Filipina-Irish Amerikan, queer, student ever-learning." Her performance poetry is strong on humanity by her upbringing, but is it also strongly political by practical and social necessity.

Barrett's performance poetry speaks from all her identities cited above, and so the complications of race and gender quite naturally work their way through her texts. Barrett draws deeply from her familia, which is both concrete, referring to her immediate family, and archetypal, referring to her abstract sense of tribe and the people and ideas who populate her metaphorical home. The familia fill a place that may be nurturing by tradition and conflictive by dogma. Barrett's poetry negotiates the struggle in this space to assert her rightful place in the familia as a young, queer adult. She faces these struggles directly across race, generation, and gender, whether the struggle is embodied by the voice of her mother, or in the subtle day-to-day affairs of a classroom or a circle of friends.

Ms. Barrett has assembled a solid curriculum vitae in her young career, and was named one of "30 Under 30" significant people to watch by Windy City Times. She has been featured at Ladyfest Midwest (2001), the Southern Riot Grrrl’s Convention, the Lesbian Theatre Initiative’s Dyke-Mic series from 2001 thru 2003, the Grinder/Homolatté "LGBT words and music series" hosted by Scott Free, the Heartland Café, The Asian Arts Collective’s "CHOP", Camp Trans (2002), as a keynote speaker/performer for Chicago Dyke March (2002), and numerous conferences and symposia at universities across North America. She has interned for Young Chicago Authors. Among her influences, Barrett counts such esteemed fellow Chicago poets as Cin Salach, Kelly Tsai, Tara Betts, Lisa Hemminger, and Anida Esguerra. He. Her website is at kaybarrett.net.

Audition these recordings by Kay Barrett:

For Her
Untitled Poem #458
Winter Breaking