Des Moines’ own Champagne Harrington learned from a young age that she had a voice. That voice has since grown in strength, putting words to her pain from losing a childhood friend, being adopted, relationships and more. But through it all, she now knows who she is, the talent she has, and where both of those things can take her.
Harrington first had a poem published at the age of 11. At 15, she began performing at shows and events around the city. She wrote specifically for performances, and booked 20 shows in 2019 from January to July. But a love for poetry didn’t develop until she started writing for herself.
“I used to write poems for people all the time. I didn’t fall in love with it until I seen what it did for me. Because back then it was always it was a chore,” she said.
She now describes herself as the “anthem for self-love.”
“A lot of my poetry when I was a kid was about my depression and me wanting to die and very graphic things, and now it’s all about who I am as a woman and the love that I have for it,” Harrington said.
Harrington’s performance at the 2022 Mic Check Poetry Festival in Iowa City this month was her last while living in Iowa. At the beginning of next year, she and her family are beginning their new lives in Baltimore, where Harrington hopes to make a name for herself in a bigger poetry community.
Little Village caught up with the poet ahead of her Mic Check performance.
When did poetry become more than a hobby?
I honestly was dating this guy, and he made me doubt my confidence. Back then, I was always doing these poems with very clever lines, I might add, but they were basically like, F these dudes. That’s kind of where I was at, and I was like, “Oh! I need to expand, right?” He was talking so much stuff about me. I did a show that he was at, and I made a poem about him.
Like, I treated the fuck out of him and I didn’t care. That’s when I was like, oh! — when the crowd responded to me, that’s when I knew in that moment this isn’t just me writing. This is like, “oh! I have a gift!” I actually got this tattoo the next day. (She points to the “poetry” tattoo on her wrist).
Where did your talent for poetry come from?
I’m adopted, so that plays into it because I met my birth mother when I was 10 years old and she wrote poetry. I didn’t know her. She’s in prison, and when I met her, she showed me all her poems and stuff.
Describe your relationship with poetry.
It’s growth, I love it. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s me. It’s genuinely who the fuck I am, and I’m talented, and I am powerful, and I am fierce, and I am clever, and I love talking to shit and making it art. That’s just what it is like. It’s not my identity, but it’s one of the biggest loves of my life and I am content with that.
What are your expectations for Mic Check?
I just think I don’t really have any because I think they exceeded them just by the conversations and everything that I’ve did with them. Because I was like, “Hey! I’m very graphic and I read some things,” and they were like, “No! We have the space for you.” So, the fact that they have that space for me genuinely and won’t judge me and allow me to be myself, then really, I hope their expectations of me are met.
Why do you believe events such as Mic Check are important to have in Iowa?
They’re hella important because we need diversity. We have no culture here. We have no culture here! So, things like this are important because children need to see that even people in their community can do shit like this, and they can do shit like this, and they don’t have to be here. There’s bigger things in Iowa, but I feel like we need more things like this to gravitate our youth so they can believe in themselves more.