See Akel Martin’s spoken word piece in the 2016 Issue Multimedia section.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING POETRY?
I’d say the main focus for me writing poetry is just because I like the way I use my words not only to express how I feel, but how others feel and relate to a lot of people where it’s not as physical, it’s more mental. You know, you hear my words and it relates to you. It resonates and those words will stay with you, the same way an image will.
It’s a little bit harder with words, but once I figured that out, that pushed me to start writing poetry a lot more, you know, and I had a couple things happen to me in life that if I wasn’t writing it down on paper I’d probably just be out doing really bad stuff, you know to get my anger out.
ARE THERE ANY SUBJECTS YOU’VE WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT BUT YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN ABOUT YET?
Yeah, I try not to write about anything I haven’t experienced personally, I feel like that’s not fair. For instance I have poems that, they show an outside view of the topic of being a rape victim, but I would never write as if I was a rape victim because I’ve never been one. I’d say I can cover any subject, but I’d just have to cover it in a different way as if I wasn’t experiencing it personally.
DO YOU FIND IT MORE DIFFICULT TO WRITE WHEN YOU’RE HAPPY? AND IF YOU DON’T, WHEN DO YOU FIND IT MOST DIFFICULT?
Uhm, I’d say I actually find the writing of it very difficult, all of it actually. Usually what I do is, I’m in a mirror and then I’ll just say the topic that I have in kind and I’ll just say everything that’s in my mind and then I’ll just put it in the world of poetry with the metaphors and everything and I’ll say “that’s good” and I’ll jot that down.
But mostly I do all my poetry when I am happy. I mean I have some really gnarly pieces from when I was sad or angry, but I’d say the majority of it is from when I’m happy.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE OF SPOKEN WORD YOU COULD REALLY STAMP YOUR NAME ON?
That right there goes to the lovely “For You” poem that I did at Coffee House, it’s about my mom. That piece is the first piece that I just, it was just all me. Like I just let out all that and I remember it heart-to-heart, cover-to-cover but I still change things, add different events in it that I’ve experienced in my life. Different parts of my childhood ‘cause the poem focuses on my mom and how she raised me and that’s a lot of stuff to cover.
So every time I perform it, I usually add in a different event so the audience can get something special.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTIST?
I do actually. His name is Lemon. I don’t know if you guys know Def Jam Poetry, but if you [look up] Lemon he’s real good. He’s from Brooklyn, real good. I just, like his whole performance and the way he moves around the stage, but also the language that he uses. It’s the physicality of his words that really hits you.
It’s his punch lines, cause his punch lines sound like normal lines, you know, it’s the simplicity. I’m not gonna lie, I like all the work that he does, I just really appreciate everything he does.
WHEN YOU’RE WRITING, DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF OF TRYING TO GET TO THE LEVEL OF LEMON OR DO YOU THINK YOU’RE THERE ALREADY?
Nah, I wanna say that I am nowhere near Lemon. I’m not saying he’s the best, but I am just nowhere near there yet.
I do often, whenever I write a poem and whenever I finish, I’ll be like “If I were to say this to him right now, what would he say?”. And I don’t know, but I’ve seen many ted talks from him and you know, I follow him heavy so if it’s shitty, I’ll just say ‘What would Lemon say?’ And he’d probably say it was shitty, just like that and I’ll be like “Alright, let’s rework it then, let’s get it to that level.”
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR FANS?
Don’t think that you can’t do this. It’s really easy, anybody can write something down on a piece of paper and that’s half the battle.
The other half is doing something that you do everyday and that’s talking to friends. You get up on that stage and it’s like having a conversation with your friends. You just, you talk. You know, you let the words come through you, you resonate, take your time with it and you make it your own. By the time you get off stage everyone’s clapping and you’ve just gone back to normal, cause in truth nothing was different.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER BAD POETRY?
I would consider bad poetry — that’s a good one. Alright, I would say bad poetry is not about the words and it’s not about the language, it doesn’t have to be written well. Bad poetry to me is when your heart’s not in to it. And there is a difference, there’s poets that just read their work and put no physicality in it,and they’re just static, but it still resonates with them.
No matter how static you are, your voice still has emotion so if I don’t feel any emotion from you, the poem might be good but the poetry you just spit to me is…bad. So that would be my bad poetry.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO A WRITER WITH WRITER’S BLOCK?
I would say the easiest way to get over writer’s block, and this helps me. Well there’s two. So when it’s cold outside you can’t go outside, but this is what you do:
You go to someplace that you just like to be. You go there, you get your favorite drink, it can be alcohol or doesn’t have to be, like mine is a mango smoothie. You just put it there, right in front of you and make yourself not drink it ‘til you write at least one thing. That’s it, that’s what helps me in the cold.
And then in the summertime, for me, it has to be:
You go outside and you have to talk to every person that passes you until you write something.
So those are the two things I do, but that’s just because I’m an outspoken person. To anybody that can’t do those two things it’s real simple, remember that anything you write does not have to be fancy, it does not have to be cool, it does not have to be all-powerful or all-inspiring. It just has to resonate with you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about your dog, or your left shoe. As long as you’re putting your words on paper and you feel good about it, that’s it. Like, don’t think you need to think of some big, all-inspiring idea that’s gonna change mankind ‘cause, I’m telling you right now, that shit’s hard.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR FAVORITE EMOTION?
My favorite emotion, hmm, it would be that mix of — alright so this is a personal thing that I do, so whenever I get mad, we’ll call it laughy cause I just start laughing, and then confused I do this thing with my lip where I keep half of my mouth open and my tongue comes out.
So that would be mine, it’s a mixture of that. You’re mad, confused, and you’re laughing at the same time and it’s just like, perfect you know, it just gets you in this mood where you’re like “Yeah that really happened and it’s like I’m mad about it, but I’m not at the same time” and you’re just like “Why aren’t I mad?”. It makes you question things and you know, I always laugh at that and I really like that.
HAVE YOU FACED OR COME ACROSS ANY PROBLEMS WHERE YOU’RE JUST LIKE “I HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THAT”?
Ah man that’s like a weekly thing right there. You know, I got one major problem going on in my life now and I probably won’t write about it but that’s just because, I don’t know I think it’d just get real bad if I wrote about it.
I mean the last piece, last week that I wrote about, it was about alcoholism, which some people close to me, they suffer from. So you know, I go through problems all the time and I do jot them down, but not every time but most of the time.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT LABELS?
Got to say fuck ‘em cause everybody’s different. There’s like, you can label me a black man but that’s not who I am. You know, I’m much more than that.
I’m 6’3, male, I like to skate. I like art. I like video games, you know all that so by the end of the day if you really wanna put a label on me you need about five pages, and that’s a lot. Who wants to label someone with five pages? So I don’t really label people. The only thing I put to them is their name. That’s it, that’s who you are.
Everybody’s different, Just cause you have the same qualities as somebody else or people who came before you doesn’t mean that you’re like them cause you’re not, even if you’re twins you’re not. You’re different in your own way, so can’t really label you.
IF YOU WERE TO IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITH ONE WORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Hmm one word identification, alright alright. I’d say, and not to get cocky, but inspiring ‘cause people, you know, they see me doing this or me riding my longboard or doing anything and that makes them think “ Oh I could do that, why can’t I do that?” You know and it inspires them to go and do something that they haven’t done before.
IF YOU COULD BE REMEMBERED FOR SOMETHING OTHER THAN YOUR POETRY…
That’s so easy, and that’s my mindset. And this is gonna sound real bad but my mindset is don’t give a fuck. Life is TOO SHORT to give a fuck. You just gotta go, you gotta cruise
It’s like longboarding, I relate it to longboarding. Whenever I’m longboarding, if I try and move and I bust my ass and everybody’s laughing, I’m gonna join and laugh too ‘cause that shit’s gonna be funny, I just busted my ass but you can’t give a fuck. You just get back up and you go, so I just want people to remember that you know, I didn’t give a fuck.
If I go up on stage and you don’t like my poetry, please tell me it was shitty. I won’t give a fuck. I’ll hear what you’re sayin’, I won’t give a fuck. If you tell me it’s good, thank you for that and it’ll make my night a little bit better. But I’m not gonna lie when I go home it’s not gonna be on my mind. I mean I thank you for it, but it’s not gonna be on my mind.
So you know you just gotta put yourself in a situation to where, ya know “How do I wanna feel today? What do I wanna do?” And that’s it, that’s all. Everything else, that’s all side nonsense. Don’t let it fuck with your day, don’t let it dictate how you go through it.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO AN 11 YEAR OLD…
Well it would be 1. Why are you talking to me, I don’t know you (laughter) and 2. It would be like, alright I’d ask them what their dream was, and I’d want them to go as ridiculous as possible and then I’d be like “Tell me why that’s impossible.” I don’t know what the answer would be, but I would say it’s only impossible ‘til somebody does it.
As ridiculous as it sounds, if you wanna fly you can make wings, put ‘em on your back, and you can fly. It’s still technically flying.
So my ultimate advice to an 11 year old is be the ultimate best you and don’t let anyone sway you from that path. Doesn’t matter if it’s your dad or your neighbor, if you wanna do something in life and someone’s not fucking with you for it, or they’re mad at you because you’re not doing what they want you to, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day is it their life, or is it yours?
LAST ONE: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THE FRESHMAN YOU OF HIGH SCHOOL?
Ah shit, there is so many things I would tell him. I would look him dead in the face and I would probably tell him to let go of the anger. Yeah I would tell him to not hold on to the anger and stop trying to fit into the box that everyone has prescribed.
Yeah that’s the only thing I would tell him. Like I would spoil what happened freshman year, but I would tell him that and you know, help him out.