When did you start writing poetry?
I grew up in a home full of writers.
I think some people know every day that they are growing up that they are going to be what they are growing into. Some have the luxury of really just walking down the road to the market and coming back with milk. Most days I pity them… Until it’s one of those specific days when I feel extra spun around and don’t know which way is up or down, and don’t know what direction to write in let alone what to write about, or that I should be writing more my name and the date on the top of a blank page I don’t know why I stole, or how to spell my name, or what the date is…. Then I really envy people who are doing what they always knew they’d be doing.
All I ever really knew was that it wasn’t going to be me — writing. And then I woke up one day and I was 16, in a creative writing class during my junior year in high school, and the poetry section started. My teacher, Robin Moten, showed us “Slam Nation” and I got to watch Saul Williams and Beau Sia and Jessica Care Moore and muMs da Schemer represent the Nuyorican Cafe / NYC at the National Poetry Slam. Taylor Mali and is “Like Lily, Like Wilson’ poem. Saul’s Pickininey Children and Aunt Jemimah and Uncle Ben shooting at them. I was hooked. It was like a light switch got turned on. Mostly on Saul, and most of my early writing really reflects that point of inspiration. Young writing (still problematic), and more attempts at wordplay than attempts at meaning, some times (and still).
But I knew that I was saying something. I knew that it was important — if only for me.
I won the poetry contest/slam we had in that class. And the one the next class had (they invited me back). A few slams and some wins here and there, and a lot of stages and mics have helped me grow into who I am. As did a long break from mics and stages, which happened after I decided that I was winning or doing well in slams because I was a better performer than a writer (the opposite is now true, and performing isn’t as fun as it used to be — but I’m trying to get back).
I spent the next decade or so often living, sometimes writing about it, and trying to figure out how to write more and more and more for _me_ while not being more and more and more open to the world. It’s been exhausting, and incredible, and hopefully I’m just getting started.
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