Photo: Todd Williamson/WireImage.com
Mayda del Valle doesn't waste words. Or time. In 2001, at the age of 22, the Chicago native became the youngest poet and first Latino to win the Individual National Poetry Slam. Since then, her bracing style—informed by Latin jazz and hip-hop—has set off sparks on Russell Simmons's Def Poetry HBO series and Broadway show; in May she performed at the White House at the invitation of the president and First Lady. When O asked del Valle to talk about what she does, she composed this poem.