Best known for her spoken word poem “What Guys Look For In Girls”, nineteen-year old Ohio native, Savannah Brown (SB) has evolved online in the world of poetry. Discussing topics ranging from gender, sexuality, and self-help, Savannah has put passion into words and is currently promoting her first book, Graffiti (and other poems).
Your poetry is hauntingly beautiful. When did you discover you had a way with words? What led you to poetry rather than other forms of expressive arts?
SB – Thank you, firstly! When someone describes something I’ve created as “haunting”, I’m sure I’ve done something right. Writing has always been that thing that came naturally. I remember being around five or six, and at the time, nothing was more exciting to me than the idea of creating a story, of constructing a “book” out of sloppily stapled sheets of notebook paper and whatever words I thought belonged on them. Ever since then, writing and I have had a bit of a magnetic attraction. It’s something that I could never stop doing; to do so would mean I lose the only reliable, fine-tuned outlet for getting all of the mess in my head out into the world. Poetry was definitely a later development. I think poetry in particular has a tendency to seem a bit inaccessible— the boring, nonsensical drivel you have to plow your way through because your English teacher told you it means something. When you’re young, it’s a bit difficult to get excited about. However, the first time I felt like I really got it was when I was thirteen and read Edgar Allan Poe in class, and I fell entirely in love. I soon after discovered poetry by E. E. Cummings and then it was decided: I needed to be a poet. The charm of poetry is that there are no rules, no guidelines, no necessary order to your thoughts. It’s an entirely personal endeavor that exists for the purpose of individual interpretation. That realization, I think, is what got me hooked, and the rest is history.
In this technology-saturated age, do you find you prefer to write out thoughts or poems on your phone/laptop? Or do you prefer pen to paper?
SB – This is potentially an unpopular opinion, but I love writing on my laptop. I can get a bunch of thoughts out quickly and efficiently, which, if you’ve ever experienced a burst of inspiration, you’ll know is absolutely crucial when a thousand ideas are coming at once. There’s definitely something romantic about writing by hand, but I find it takes too long and I get hand cramps. Though, I do always carry a notebook around with me though to jot things down just in case!
Who/what inspires you and your writing?
SB – Like I said, Poe and Cummings will always be two of my favorites. But for what inspires me… that’s tough to pin down. I get inspired by a lot of things. I get inspired by senses and I like to describe how things feel, how they smell, how they taste. I like to compare things that, on the surface, share no similarity. Emotions inspire me; whenever I’m feeling something very strongly, no matter what it is, I’m definitely going to write about it.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
SB – Independent, fiery, stubborn.
I noticed you participated in PEDA (Poem Every Day in August). How was that experience? Did you find it difficult to come up with a poem every day? If so, how did you get past these mental blocks?
SB – It was definitely more difficult than I had anticipated! I went into it with the mindset that, since I wasn’t too busy, it would be really easy to just sit down for an hour each day, crank out a poem, and be done with it. Straightforward. However, I quickly learned that forcing yourself to write poetry when you’re not inspired by anything is really, really hard. My creativity comes in waves, typically; I’ll have a good three or four days where everything is inspiring and words come easy and I’m able to write about anything. But with PEDA, although I had a few good days, I felt a lot of stress to be uploading daily in addition to the natural spouts of unproductivity, which psyched me out even more! Ultimately, it was an interesting challenge in learning my limits as a creator and I’d love to try it out again this year.
Many find solace in watching others talk about very real issues on public platforms like YouTube. Your video about Anxiety was very brave and candid. What made you decide to discuss your own battle with anxiety online?
SB – Thank you! My anxiety was something I always wanted to address. I like to use the platform I’ve been lucky enough to grow for saying things that I would have wanted to hear when I was younger, or even now. I think, with mental illness, learning you’re not alone is a really big part of coping and healing, and there’s something really comforting in listening to the experience of others who’ve shared your struggles.
Poetry can seem very daunting and intimidating. What advice do you have for people who want to try their hand at it?
SB – Ha, I completely agree. I think all you need is the understanding that poetry exists for you. Poetry exists to help us make sense of the world around us through language. Words are there for you to manipulate and to allow you to take abstract thoughts and turn them into something tangible. It’s not something that needs to be tamed, it’s something for you to bring into existence yourself. Apart from your talent in writing, you are also a very strong musician and singer.
Who are some of your favorite artists at the moment?
SB – Keaton Henson will always be a favorite. I’ve been listening to a lot of Vampire Weekend lately.
You are most known for your strong and raw Slam Poem in reply to Nash Grier’s video, “What Guys Look For In Girls”. What drove you to write this poem and upload it online? How did the reaction to your video affect you?
SB – Like you said, it was, at its core, a response to the video Nash Grier made of the same name. “What Guys Look For In Girls” was actually the first poem I had ever performed and posted on YouTube, and, really, was the first real slam I’d ever written. To me, it just seemed like an appropriate response— I was inspired to write a piece about general self-love, regardless of gender, race, size, and so on and the slam part came naturally after; I was really angry about the whole ordeal and the things they said, and I was passionate about the message I was sharing. I didn’t want to make it aggressive, but I did want to make it powerful. So, “What Guys Look For In Girls” was born! It went viral almost immediately, which came as an enormous surprise. At the time I posted it (January 2014), I had around 20,000 subscribers; within a week or two, I had rocketed up to 100,000 subscribers and the video itself soon surpassed a million views. It was very overwhelming and a bit exhausting, but it was so exciting to see the video reach so many people. From the response, I realized that, wow, people would actually listen to me performing poetry— besides Button Poetry, there was really nobody else on YouTube doing that, so it never occurred to me that I could. That video was definitely the catalyst that allowed me to shape my channel into what it is today.
What kind of career path do you see yourself wanting to follow in the future?
SB – That’s a very good question that I guess I should know the answer to, but I really don’t! I think, growing up, I was bombarded with the idea that writing wasn’t a viable career option, so I consciously pushed it to the back burner and considered going into something useful like business or marketing or what have you. I’m currently studying business management at university, but with the release of my book, I realized that perhaps maybe being a writer actually is something achievable. Being a fulltime author is the big dream at this point, I suppose! If not, I’d like to start my own business; I’m a bit of a control freak and I’m not sure I’d ever be able to hide it well enough to work for anybody besides myself, ha.
Your look and style has changed since your video “What Guys Look For In Girls”. What advice would you have for someone looking to make a bold change?
SB – Just do it! Identity is a thing that’s constantly evolving and trying to confine yourself within certain expression parameters is really damaging, I think. “Finding yourself” is something you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, so make big changes and be unapologetic.
What inspired you to move to London?
SB – I started YouTube when I was fourteen and almost immediately made a bunch of friends who lived in or around London just by coincidence and social circles and that, thus beginning my love affair with the city. Being from a small town in Ohio, the idea of London was so foreign and interesting and beautiful to me. I visited for the first time when I was fifteen, adored it, and convinced myself I was absolutely going to live there someday. And now I am!
What have you found to be the biggest adjustment in your life since moving abroad?
SB – I always get asked this, but honestly, I adjusted pretty gracefully (so rarely am I able to describe anything I do as graceful so I’m jumping at the opportunity). I knew what I was getting into, and the thought of me looking like I wasn’t really sure what I was doing at any point terrified me, so I made it my goal to assimilate quickly and quietly. Admittedly, getting used to public transport and learning the layout of the city took a little bit, and, of course, I dealt with the universal struggle of learning to live on my own without parents around to cook meals for me.
Congratulations on working towards the launch of your poetry book. What subjects will you be addressing in your collection of works?
SB – Thanks! All sorts of topics are addressed: infatuation, mental illness, living in London, time, growing up, and loads more. My book is a collection of poetry I wrote between ages seventeen and nineteen. During those ages, I graduated high school, moved to another continent on my own, began university, experienced a couple tumultuous relationships, struggled with my mental health… I’ve been a bit of a mess, as most people are between ages seventeen and nineteen, but I managed to document it all, haha. Some of the poems are serious, some are not, but all of them have to do with me and my own personal experiences.
What are a few of your goals for the next five years?
SB – In the more immediate future, I’d like to graduate university with a first, ending my formal education career. I’d like to figure out how I’m going to stay in the UK after I graduate. I’d like to continue expanding the platform I have on which I can reach people and share my thoughts and ideas. I’d love to release another book (or two!).