The Origins of Voice

768 1024 Susan Landrum

An original poem by Sarah Garnitz, Director of Atlanta Teen Voices

When I was told that I needed to write a spoken word piece to be performed at my interview with VOX, I was a little apprehensive. Even after entering VOX’s colorful office, meeting such a brilliant and insightful cadre of teens on my hiring committee, and speaking to a dedicated and welcoming board and staff, I was nervous to share my voice. Two days before my interview, I was instructed to write a poem on “voice,” a word that defines VOX both in name and mission. While it was no easy task, it was my introduction into what VOX does so well, lift voices up and share them with the community. I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this piece and to have these words reaffirmed by the teens who inspire us everyday. 

I wonder how it first happened…

Whether in Eden or jungle or cave

The sound that came from mouth and tongue

The throat vibrations of chords struck like violin strings, ding.

She spoke, softly at first, since finding your voice sometimes comes from a whisper


Maybe god or molecules made her. But, she made poetry. From alliteration to proclamation

Words not to define her worth but to speak to the beauty around her

Whether sweet apple or cool water prompted her to speak,

all at once there was so much to say


I’d like to think we discovered our voices when we discovered fire

Words sparked into being. Hot, illuminating, captivating

They could warm or burn, nourish or destroy and in that way we became powerful.

Mouths sculpt words on a potter’s wheel

Spinning voices into being. Unencumbered elocution.


So, where did we go wrong?

Build walls instead of shelters

Divided, individual, brick by brick injustice

And I don’t know the first time our voices failed,

But from what I’ve been seeing, there are too many voices amplified

That don’t seem very dignified.


And in a time where we need to emphasize that lives matter

That all people have a right to eat and flee and breathe

We need our voices to pulse truth

We use our voices for those who can’t

And in that way our voices outlive us