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Poet Layla Said Embodies the Unyielding Power of Art

Poet, singer, and activist Lalya Said poses in a black sports jacket. She has long black hair and looks over her shoulder towards the camera.

Writing comes naturally to Layla Said, creator of Said Nothing. Media. She told Tagg that sharing her life through art was something she “always felt really compelled to do.” 

Said’s poetic and written talents will officially culminate in her first poetry book, “Don’t You Cry, I’m on Venus.” Releasing this summer, this 7-year project reflects her life journey in navigating the world as a queer BIPOC woman.


A Life of Poetry

Said’s book took its first breath during her junior year of college when her professor, Sarah McCallum, encouraged her to become a poet. “She was the first person to ever call me a poet. She’s brilliant, she made me realize I was more than good enough,” says Said. 

But Said didn’t begin writing poetry in college; she wrote her first poem at age 7. Poetry even runs in her blood. 

Said shares that her grandmother used to be a political poet who was once imprisoned by the communist Romanian government. At nine months pregnant, she sat in jail reciting poems to the guards. Like a siren who lured pirates into dangerous waters, her poetry moved the guards to tears, and they let her go. This miraculous tale within Said’s ancestral past inspires her work today. “Her first name is my middle name, so I’ve always felt really connected to her,” she says. 

Said’s book is divided into three parts: “Enter the War Zone,” “Leave the War Zone,” and “Enter Self.” The proclaimed “war zone” began in high school, where Said, a Romanian Afghan woman, was surrounded by predominantly white peers. “I was very other in their eyes there,” says Said. “Everyone was super white, and they really made it a point that I was not.” 


Lalya Said, a Romanian Afhgan poet, singer, and activist, stands in front of a window. The building behind her is yellow. Said is wearing a black sports coat and holding a cigarette in her hand.


The Beat of Her Own Drum

Said’s poetry doesn’t simply stay on the page. It finds life musically as well. Said has produced two EPs, “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and “Portrait of a Young Woman,” and she is adding a new song, “She Who Laughs Lasts,” to her discography on May 24th. The song was produced entirely virtually through voice memo recordings and Zoom calls with her producer. 

Her book and song are vulnerable expressions of her familial trauma and battle with bipolar disorder. While it can be difficult to share her experiences publicly, she says that it’s a vital part of how she heals. “I just feel like processing that in my art is really the only way I’ve been able to get through it to move on to have better relationships with my family,” Said says.


Poet, singer, and activist Lalya Said poses with a smile and a cigarette in her hand. Her long black hair hangs over her bare shoulders.


Uplifting Others

Discussing her past isn’t the only way that Said is healing and reclaiming her power. To challenge capitalism’s dominance over artistic expression, she created Said Nothing. Media is a company dedicated to amplifying poetry in all forms, specifically by women and minority artists. “There are so many ways to sell your soul and I really think that there’s such a power in being your own boss, and having your own voice and not having anyone dictate that,” says Said. 

But her passion for uplifting unheard voices doesn’t stop there. Said is also a fierce advocate dedicated to helping end homelessness in Denver, Colorado. She says, “My art is an extension of my public service, which is core to my identity and human experience.” This past year, she helped secure $2.58 million in recurring city funding to support homeless youth. 

Said says she doesn’t need recognition or fame to feel that her art and advocacy have made a difference: “The important thing is to just create, and to kind of just let the risk be and not try to force the outcome so much. Do I hope people consume it? Sure. But is that the end-all-be-all? No.” 




Abby Stuckrath
Abby Stuckrath
Abby Stuckrath (she/her) is a senior at American University studying Journalism with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Her work is featured in American University's school paper, The Eagle, and the Educational Theatre Association Dramatics Blog. Throughout the past year, Abby has worked with the Sexual Health Alliance (SHA), writing blogs featuring stories on sex and sexuality education. With SHA, she also produces and hosts a journalistic podcast series called the Nymphomedia Podcast. Currently, she is working as a communications intern with the Human Rights Campaign.