Brenna Twohy is a name to remember. Not only did she manage to tear down ideas of sexual commodification in a three-minute video that went viral, but she did so via a slam poem about Harry Potter. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.
The viral video that got Twohy a great deal of attention was her performance at the National Poetry Slam 2014 during which she recited her poem "Fantastic Breasts and Where to Find Them." In it, Twohy not only makes some profound points, she introduces herself as a powerful, feminist poetic voice worthy of attention.
In "Fantastic Breasts," Twohy takes on the seemingly disparate topics of Harry Potter, porn and what porn has done to our sexual lives, pressures and expectations. She frames the conversation as one about her love of "Potterotica" — which at first feels like a self-deprecating joke, before quickly revealing itself as an important conversation about sex and sexuality. The characters in Harry Potter exist outside of sex, and that's why she loves hearing about their exploits.
With this as her springboard, she explores how society makes sex overly pornographic, pornography into an ideal and how this has impacted her own life. It makes for moving listening, and that is what makes Twohy so special: funny, honest, relevant, revealing.
Twohy is far from a one-hit wonder. She has a distinct voice — ironic, self-deprecating, dry-humored and full of pop culture references. Take for example a poem she published recently on her Tumblr, where she finds a way into discussing panic attacks via the extended metaphor of superpowers:
If you think I am brave
it is because you have never seen me out of costume,
and the thing about panic disorder
is that eventually, it will convince you it is a superpower,
as it turns you invisible.
as it pushes everyone away,
like a force field, like an impenetrable web
This ability to take abstract or ineffable ideas and put them into a framework of something ubiquitous is one of Twohy's greatest strengths. In a poem called "The Problems With First Dates (or How to Really Really Not Get Laid)" from the Eugene Poetry Slam in January, one of the funniest moments comes early on, when she describes how she hasn't had sex since the first Twilight movie came out, and how much Bella Swann has achieved since she last had an orgasm.
Twohy's also at her best when mixing comedy with tragedy, knowingness with empathy. She has a real understanding of how to control an audience — note in the performance of "Fantastic Breasts" how laughs and claps turn into cheers of solidarity — and this shows even when she's not speaking the words.
On her Tumblr she also includes another poem entitled "To the Guy in the Back of the Room Complaining About Listening to Another Rape Poem." which is beautifully meta-poetical, addressing an audience bored already by her work.
I know that you are tired of hearing rape poems.
I am tired of hearing rape poems,
the same way soldiers are tired of hearing their own guns go off,
we all wish the war was over, but friend,
you are staring out at a world on fire
complaining about how ugly you think the ashes are,
The poems are not the problem.
Through this second-guessing of audience expectations, she is able to engage even critics into her very personal, very moving poetry.
Twohy may have just become a publicly recognized figure thanks to "Fantastic Breasts," but she's already got the ability with words and the power of thought to become a regular appearance on your newsfeed.