Regie Cabico offers advice on tackling his craft. “If you don’t know what to write, write a poem,” he says. “Things that you could never tell your mother, things you could never tell your father, and a lot will come out.” Cabico, who calls himself an “accidental poet,” specializes in slam poetry, a genre that requires performers to orate everything from original short stories to raps in just three passion-filled minutes. While Cabico’s performances have earned him awards at national poetry slams and representation in more than 30 anthologies, poetry wasn’t always his obvious calling.
Cabico grew up in a conservative Filipino-American family in Maryland, where his queer identity was rare in a mostly white and African-American neighborhood. Struggling to find a place in his community, he turned to theater as a space where he could explore self-expression. After graduating from NYU with a focus in acting, however, Cabico had difficulty booking roles. Desperation drove him to explore other ways of performing, like open mics or standup comedy, and he eventually stumbled into the emerging scene of poetry slams, a competitive performance where the audience acts as judge and critic.