Poets do something with words that’s utterly remarkable. They embrace words – hold them in the tips of their pens and when the ink gives birth to those words, they live and breathe the stories of people who needed nothing more than a outlet. And we as listeners and readers absorb all that they give, especially the chills that raise our hairs with every cutting metaphor projected throughout the room. But what is more intriguing than those very words is the holder of the pen, the bravery resting in their gut, whispering in their ear, “breathe life into your stories.” Take for instance, Lacey Roop (whose accolades I could list until the sun sets), Austin’s own nationally acclaimed spoken word artist. Roop’s not just a dominating force in the Slam poetry world, but moreover, one of the most fascinating poets I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
If you let Roop tell it, she’d lead you to believe most of her days are boring, consisting of checking emails, walking her beloved dog, and admittedly being a hub for distractions of any kind. But I would beg to differ. There’s definitely something compelling about someone who’s tried over 900 beers in her lifetime, can spew history facts like a running faucet, and most admirable, has three works published– two self-published chapbooks, and a best-selling full-length collection, And Then Came the Flood, published by Timber Mouse. Allow me to take you a step further into Lacey’s world as a renowned slam poet.
At the young age of twenty-two, Lacey had a one-way ticket to South America, and ten months to explore it. Traveling through Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina (to name a few), with no money, sometimes by foot, other times, by bus or hitch hiking, she proclaims that the experience was, “an adventure, for damn sure.”
But now, she’s somewhere else in life, or should I say, multiple places, newly signed to an agency and touring all over from Canada to universities across the states. And even better, she’s eager to add to the list of places she’s toured, performing her poetry. Lacey’s aspiration is to be able to tour full-time, as if four states in six days isn’t enough. Turns out, Roop loves it when her plate is full with touring. And even though it gets a bit tiring, she was eager to confess, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. If anything, I’d want more hectic schedules.” At this point in our conversation over chips, salsa, and her favorite, beer, I began to wonder where exactly did all of this passion and zeal derive from. Born and raised in Mississippi, Lacey believed her hometown offered no outlet for art like poetry. In high school, she was more of the “jock-type,” playing basketball (until her monumental departure from the sport her senior year), and never really considered herself to be creative.
It wasn’t until she had moved to Austin to pursue a business degree and had been studying for a Macroeconomics exam at a coffee shop, that she had been exposed to poetry. She recalled the experience being evoking and was instantly inspired by the people who had shared their stories at the open mic. Visiting open mic as an observer became somewhat of a ritual for Lacey until she gathered the bravery to share her very own poem. “The rest was history,” she said. Not long after discovering what slam poetry was, she had won her first poetry slam (impressively, her very first time participating in a poetry slam). Lacey Roop’s poetry often hints at themes of magical realism, driven by whimsical elements, and resting on imagery, movement, and insightful descriptions. But she also displays an interest in more concrete images and commentary pieces. Gender themes and women’s rights claim influence over her work at times, and being a member of the LGBT community, sexuality is also often explored in her work as well. She says she’s “all over the place,” but I’d say she’s in all the right places.
Inspired by the works of writers like Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, Frank Sanford, and Shakespeare, she hopes to continue exploring, organically developing pieces, and sharing her stories as a poet. She admits, “it’s tough being an artist,” or at least an artist that can sustain themselves. In between traveling, she expects to take on a more intensive touring schedule to feed her craving to be a self-sufficient, full-time artist. In the meantime, you can find her in another environment she loves very dearly – a local Austin beer bar (she’s a beverage connoisseur if you haven’t noticed yet, by the way). And aside from her blooming career as a writer and poet, I find it quite impressive that she’s been able to go seven years without owning a television, just recently purchased a smartphone, and is just stepping into the light of social media (and to say she’s just getting actively involved in social networking, she reached 300 followers on Instagram before posting a single picture).
Lacey Roop is a treasure, a true jewel who didn’t cease to impress me during our first encounter. Her knowledge, her talent, and ability to take the poetry world by storm in such a short period of time is definitely admirable and moreover, exciting to witness. She’s a poet that not just the LGBT community can embrace and appreciate, but one that the world can embrace and appreciate as the tip of her pen continues to carry more life than we could ever imagine.