Dua Saleh fell into music by way of poetry, for the most practical reason you could imagine––they were a broke college student and poetry slam performances would pay. What they didn’t foresee was the hypervisibility they’d get as a result of sharing their intimate works on stage, many of which were largely inspired by some dark depressive moments after coming out as non-binary. While they were grappling with a heavy bout of dysphoria, melodies began flowing out of them at their poetry shows, and people started telling them they loved their voice. A voice we now know, from projects like their critically acclaimed Nūr, as a mix of siren’s song and a conversation in a smoky room, dimly lit, where you can’t help but lean in closer so you don’t miss a word.

The unexpected feedback led them to play with music production, in a lower pressure, more freeform way than poetry had allowed them in the past, during cathartic dysphoric moments––when the “wounds were still open and I was gushing,” they said. A few years into releasing music and continuing to write poetry, Saleh now gets to nurture a symbiotic relationship between the two mediums, which bring different gifts but also feed each other. “[Music] definitely feels more free, definitely feels like I’m floating in the wind and existing in a lot more emotions, allowing myself to exist in a lot more emotions. I feel like with poetry, I often use it to deal with trauma. So, sometimes there’s humor, but I feel like it’s more so intentionally about me working through the harder things that I’ve dealt with,” Saleh says. 

With those processes in mind Complex caught up with Saleh to talk about the relationship between body and art, how the world interacts with their identities, and more. Read on to see them share their thoughts below.