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Maggie Estep Made Me Love Poetry

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Spoken word artist and novelist, Maggie Estep has died, and we won't see someone like her again. The performer passed away at 50 years old of a heart attack. Leaving us in the same way she lived among us, loud, quick, at 100 miles per hour.

I found Maggie Estep one night while watching MTV's Spoken Word Unplugged. She was the only one I remember from that show, and she left me slack jawed with her words. She took on the emotions most wouldn't admit, and she would do it publicly, for us. Her tired-of-it-all words would sparkle with defiance. She'd slam out her street poetry on love, the media, life, men, hypocrisy. One of my favorites, "The Stupid Jerk I'm Obsessed With," would have me nodding yes yes yes, in the quiet of my house. Maggie was the brave girl I wasn't, and in the time I'd watch her, I could be that one, who said whatever I thought, fearless. She would do it for me. Though I have been in love with poetry throughout my life, it was Maggie that made it course through my veins.

When she performed "Sex Goddess of the Western Hemisphere," and opened with her lines "I am a sex goddess simply because I have the audacity to come up here and say I am," it was hard to not think she was telling all of us, you are who you stake a claim to be. Defiant, in laced up combat boots, she would set her words, "I am a sex goddess of the Western hemisphere," but what I heard was we are what we have the guts to say we are.

Maggie Estep had written on her blog just a few weeks ago, on the pull of words and the need to write:

It's just that I would die without it. I HAVE TO WRITE because I don't know what else to do with my mind, how else to make sense of the world and its inhabitants. For whatever reason, I have trained myself, for many years, to do this thing. And when I don't do this thing, I get crazy. No amount of yoga, bicycle racing, rapacious sex, or buying things can take the place of writing. If I don't write, I die.

Her words hang mid-air now, waiting for her to come back and finish what she would die without. The news of her death, so abrupt, she is as young as I am, and now I am left on the edge of my chair, wanting her, again, to say what I don't have the guts to say. I will miss you, Maggie.