Feature Spotlight: Sasha Banks

Sasha Banks

We are thrilled to bring back one of our favorite types of posts, the Feature Spotlight. We ask featured artists some questions that allow us to get to know them better, so that we know what to look forward to. This time around, we’re shining the light on the phenomenally talented Sasha Banks, who will be featuring on Friday, April 18, 2014.

  1. Where are you from?
    Ohio, by way of Alaska, by way of Germany, by way of California.
  2. How would you describe your poetry for someone if they have never seen or heard you before?
    All the things I’ve written about are past events that are specific to me as a woman, and a black woman—my poems/poetry is me revisiting those moments and using the words I didn’t have then, to speak on them in the now.
  3. What was your first experience with poetry? What poems or poets do you remember most?
    My first experience with poetry was actually Maya Angelou; I had to do a report on her, in 7th grade. Then I came across Def Poetry, right around that same time, and I distinctly remember watching Mos Def, Suheir Hammad, and Mayda Del Valle. I wanted to do that; I wanted my poetry to matter enough to be on a stage and read in front of people.
  4. Who or what influences your poetry?
    I love language. I speak Spanish, as well, and when I first started learning the language, I was really in love with its sentence structure. It’s very poetic, to me. I’d say that’s what really influences my poetry—all the ways that exist to say one thing or communicate one feeling. I also like to study the etymology of words and phrases, so…there’s that.
  5. What was the first poem you ever wrote? How did you feel about it?
    Ha! No clue.
  6. What made you first realize you wanted to pursue poetry?
    Earlier I mentioned Def Poetry being the thing that sparked the idea that my writing could be important to more than just me. But I think the actual want to actively pursue poetry was really a result of sharing work with people in my community, locally and elsewhere, and getting an overwhelming response. 
  7. How did you get involved with poetry?
    The poetry scene that I’m a part of now? A friend of mine told me about Natty Roots, in Arlington, and I went one time and never stopped.
  8. What can people expect to see at a live performance?
    Well, no fireworks or backup dancers. People can expect to hear honest work.
  9. If you had to describe your poetry in three or four words, what would you call it?
    Lived. Defiant. Earnest. Real.
  10. What is most of your poetry about? (What specific themes do you cover?)
    A lot of the work is really centered around womanhood, and I think recently, I’m speaking more from distinct places in black womanhood.   
  11. How long have you been writing and performing poetry?
    I’ve been writing since I was 7 (poetry since I was about 9). I’ve only been performing poetry for the last year.
  12. What did you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far with poetry?
    Making it to NPS Final Stage in 2013, as a Golden Poem Award Showcase performer was definitely my biggest “break,” without a doubt.
  13. What does your family think of your poetry and do they support you?
    My father is a military man, so…initially he wasn’t really on board. He really wanted me to join the air force. Lmao. But I think his scope of what poetry had/has the capacity to be was just narrow, until I started bringing more of it into his space, through what was happening in my life. He’s more supportive, now. My mom’s always excited and trying to tell me what I should write about next. I love it.
  14. What do you do when you’re not doing poetry?
    Watching Grey’s Anatomy; scouring the earth for 90’s hip hop on wax; crocheting; watching reruns of Living Single and the Cosby Show; flirting with the Arabic language (I want to learn Arabic sooooo bad); EATING.
  15. Which poem or poems do you love to perform the most and why?
    That’s hard to say. It changes every few months. Right now, I’m in love with a sestina I wrote, and that’s one I’ve been reading a lot, lately. I actually just performed that for Patricia Smith!
  16. Where would you like to see yourself within the next 3 to 5 years as an artist?
    Writing, traveling, performing, and teaching poetry in places beyond the US. I really see myself becoming more self-assured and finally able to understand myself, artistically. I think, then I’d be able to really dig into other aspects of poetry. It’s a process.
  17. What do you do to get ready for a show?
    Panic. Pray. Panic. Repeat.
  18. What is your wildest poet/poetry story?
    Classified information.
  19. What is the furthest show from home that you have done?
    My first show was at Dartmouth, in New Hampshire. So far, that’s been the farthest.
  20. If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
    Patricia Smith because she reads on page, and that’s important in more ways than I can really explain. AND! Toni Morrison, because she’s a badass, and was one of the first black women writers to address more of the unspoken experiences of black womanhood. Both of these women are also my patron saints. Just sayin.
  21. How do you think you would be remembered by people if something were to suddenly happen to you?
    I don’t know. I think people would remember the way I push my glasses up when slide down my nose. And maybe the way I hate erotic poems. lmao I don’t know.
  22. As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
    I want to create a non-profit/school curriculum cross-pollination of some sort. It’s complicated and hard to explain haha. But that’s a long-term goal.
  23. How has your poetry evolved from your first poem to one of your recent poems?
    I’m speaking more about things I’ve never really talked about; revisiting and reexamining really big and formative experiences, of which, I’ve never really understood the gravity until now. The language I have to write about those experiences is not the language I had, back when I was writing my first pieces.
  24. What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?
    Just my belief in the power and value of art. I think living artistically and making art a priority in my life, as someone who lives in the western world, is a real act of defiance or rebellion; it disrupts the standard and the expectation. That’s hella motivating, to me.
  25. As an artist how would you define success?
    I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think the first step in the direction of success is not trying to attain someone else’s kind of success—having your own is so important in curbing that. I think paying attention to what feeling you love most about what you do, paying attention to what you do that makes you feel like you’re engaging all your best selves and best qualities, and paying attention to what you always say “yes” and “no” to are all ways to narrow what your idea of success is, at least, grounded in.
  26. What projects or products do you have or that are in the works?
    I’ve just started working on a book manuscript, so there’s a lot of drafting and researching going on.
  27. Do you have any video links where people can see you?
    Turn | TGS 2013
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHNgOukCqtc
    Pretty Girl Mouth | TGS 2013
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut0l7osFVuM
  28. Is there anyone special you would like to thank for helping you become who you are as an artist?
    I have so many supporters in the local and national poetry scene. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. And again.

 

Complete the following sentences.

  1. Without poetry, I would be:
    bored.
  2. Poetry is:
    the hardest art.
  3. My poetry makes me feel:
    nervous about whether or not I’m being heard.
  4. I write poetry because:
    that’s how I orient myself.
  5. Support poetry because:
    it’s the one of the few genuine ways to keep history—through storytelling.

See Sasha Banks, the WordSpace Third Fridays at Dallas Poetry Slam feature, on Friday, April 18, 2014.

Feature Spotlight: 2014 Dallas WoWPS Representative Candace Liger

LigerBackBeadWe are thrilled to bring back one of our favorite types of posts, the Feature Spotlight. We ask features some questions that allow us to get to know them better, so that we know what to look forward to. This round, we’re shining the light on the winner of this year’s Women of the World Poetry Slam Qualifier, Candace Liger. She will be featuring on Friday, February 28, 2014. This show will serve as a fundraiser to get this poet to Austin, Texas for the tournament, March 20-22, 2014.

  1. Where are you from?
    The heart of the Delta–The wonderful swampy, sticky, Greenville Mississippi.
  2. How did you get your name?
    I use my name because I think it’s pretty awesome. How many people do you know with a last name Liger? A lion and tiger? I’ll take it.
  3. How would you describe your poetry for someone if they have never seen or heard you before?
    I would say it is authentic and intentional. If you don’t see me in my poetry, then you were not in the same building as me.
  4. What was your first experience with poetry? What poems or poets do you remember most?
    The first time I performed, I had no idea what slam was. I did a piece about my son’s father. I got so emotional during the piece, I cried. That was foreign to me. It even frightened me. Which made me want to do it more.
  5. Who or what influences your poetry?
    Life influences my poetry. Typically dramatic situations involving emotion that I could not usually express due to my own cosmic limitations. My father was a poet, well-known and respected in the community. I keep him in my pocket.
  6. What was the first poem you ever wrote? How did you feel about it?
    The first poem was entitled “Brotha”, truly about black men who choose white women. I am not against interracial relationships. However, I am against a subconscious systematic portrayal that black men should intentionally seek love in another color. If I am not with a woman, I will be with a black man. I also make no apologies for that.
  7. What made you first realize you wanted to pursue poetry?
    After the first time on stage, the feedback I received was overwhelming, and I truly had not prepared for such positive support. I took a break after diving into the slam world, mainly because I did not enjoy the politics. However, my support system always encouraged me, and that kept me alive. I just now started back at the end of 2013.
  8. What can people expect to see at a live performance?
    They can see me—in probably the most vulnerable state they will ever get to see me.
  9. If you had to describe your poetry in three or four words, what would you call it?
    Truthball, Rudenice, and Nakedfaced.
  10. How long have you been writing and performing poetry?
    I’ve been writing for about 4 years, seriously. I wrote before, but nothing I would even give the title “poetry” to.
  11. What did you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far with poetry?
    The biggest break was actually at Hero’s Lounge. I really did not expect to win the wowps slam, but at that time, I truly needed to prove to myself that I was worth more than my own expectations. Now, I am seeing the fruition of that faith, and I will never think the same way again.
  12. What do you feel distinguishes you from other poets?
    I truly feel that I do not speak with the typical poet cadence. I would also like to think that no two of my poems sound alike. I do feel that some artists mimic sound and style too much, and quite frankly, I can’t tell them apart.
  13. What was your most embarrassing moment as an artist?
    I wrote a poem talking shit about the pronunciation of my name to a very distinguished poet. It was received horribly after I fumbled countless lines in the delivery. So my talk shit poem, turned into a stew of static sound and hiccups.
  14. What does your family think of your poetry and do they support you?
    My family loves me. That is all.
  15. What do you do when you’re not doing poetry?
    I host aerobic dance classes along with Reggae/African dance; Personal Training; Softball; Love on my babies; Attempt to continuously organize my life.
  16. Which poem or poems do you love to perform the most and why?
    My favorite poems to perform are “Fucking over me”, primarily because it’s the most truthful interpretation of how I feel about love.
  17. Where would you like to see yourself within the next 3 to 5 years as an artist?
    I would like to be published and be an internationally touring poet and activist. I plan on beginning a youth slam team here in OKC, and building for the next generations of artists to follow. Everything is about community, and growth, and building, and love, and art, and creativity.
  18. What do you do to get ready for a show?
    I drink.
  19. What is your wildest poet/poetry story?
    She made me promise not to ever tell.
  20. What is the furthest show from home that you have done?
    The furthest place I have traveled would have to be Atlanta for the Southern Fried Poetry Slam.
  21. If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
    Nina Simone. I love that woman. She makes everything seem so effortless, and her personality is beyond authentic. I want to do a poem, then act like I don’t care that the audience is clapping for me like she does. That’s so gangsta.
  22. How do you think you would be remembered by people if something were to suddenly happen to you?
    Humble.
  23. How has your poetry evolved from your first poem to one of your recent poems?
    I’ve learned to embrace that I am different. I don’t care to attend workshops for some reason. The only one I ever attended seemed like a long-ass attempt to make me sound like the person hosting the workshop. I’ve learned that my style is my style. My edit is my edit. I don’t care to conform to anyone else’s standards of poetry, including the literary geniuses.
  24. What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?
    My children. I want them to have something to hold onto other than all of my debt.
  25. As an artist how would you define success?
    Success is happiness unapologetically. Right now, I am as successful as I have ever been.
  26. If you had to think of a slogan that could leave a positive impact for everyone what would your slogan be?
    “Fuck the rules, you are a giant.”
  27.  What projects or products do you have or that are in the works?
    I am working on my book along with a new West African dance class inspired by the music of Fela Kuti. Also, I am in the process of building my website and basically creating net worth.
  28. Do you have any video links where people can see you? (Website/Facebook/email/etc…)
    Fishnet Stockings: http://vimeo.com/67258324
    Nappy: http://vimeo.com/67708451
    My Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdFUOnMzD2eN0okyJNskPHw
  29. Is there anyone special you would like to think for helping you become who you are as an artist?
    My mother, Alice Joiner- Always has my back.
    My father, Eugene Liger- Taught me poetry. R.I.P.
    Manuel Hager- Showed me the way.

 

Complete the following sentences.

  1. Without poetry, I would be:
    passionate about something else.
  2. Poetry is:
    orgasmic.
  3. My poetry makes me feel:
    invincible.
  4. I write poetry because:
    completes the emotional component I am missing in other aspects of life.
  5. Support poetry because:
    we write your history.

See Candace at Dallas Poetry Slam on on Friday, February 28, 2014.

Feature Spotlight: Corey Black

Corey Black 1

1.       Where are you from?

I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO.

2.       How did you get your name?

In the Marine Corps, they traditionally call African-American Marines “Dark Green Marines”. One day a sergeant asked to see all of the “Dark Green Marines” and  I responded  saying  “if you need to refer to me as a color, then just call me Black and don’t sugar coat the racism.” The nickname just stuck with me and when I decided to take my art seriously, I decided to go with Corey Black.

3.       How would you describe your poetry for someone if they have never seen or heard you before?

I come from hip-hop, so my poetry is has a very rhythmic vibe to it. I pull a lot of my influences from Gil Scott-Heron and Amiri Baraka, as well as emcees like Common & Talib Kweli. Its just a nice blend of telling toast, rapping, comedy, and poetry.

4.       What was your first experience with poetry? What poems or poets do you remember most?

My first experience with poetry was copying the song lyrics off of my father’s albums and writing them in notes to girls I had crushes on, because I knew they had probably never heard the songs before. The first time I stood behind a mic and spit a piece I was 16 and my older cousin Pan took me to open mic. One of my most memorable poems would be this piece Max Julien spit on the “How To Be A Player” soundtrack.

5.       Who or what influences your poetry?

Most of my poetry stems from my experiences. I write a lot about love, relationships, the community, and social problems. Most of the poems I write I don’t really share, they are just therapy for me. The pieces I do perform come from a place that I personally feel help inspire others the way they inspire me.

6.       What was the first poem you ever wrote? How did you feel about it?

The first poem I wrote in 6th grade and it was a parody of Tupac’s song “California Love”. I flipped it can titled it “Mizzouri Luv”. My English teacher gave me an A, needless to say it sparked a fuse inside of me as far as writing.

7.       What made you first realize you wanted to pursue poetry?

I wanted to be a rapper(chuckle). It was 2006 and my boys and I wanted to start an indie record label. We had the money to do it, but we just didn’t have any artist. We all agreed on me being the artist until we could find some others. At the time, everyone knew I could rap, but no one knew I was a poet.

 We hit up an open mic one night in San Diego, like 6 of us, at this coffee shop, only to find out it was a poetry open mic and not hip-hop. Everyone wanted to leave but I still signed the list and hung around. When I got on the stage I spit a piece and all of my friend’s we shocked. After that they told me I needed to stick with doing both, that would set me apart from other rappers.

8.       How did you get involved with poetry?

Pretty much that last answer (laughing).

9.       What can people expect to see at a live performance?

A lot of interaction. A lot of energy. A lot of intensity.

10.   If you had to describe your poetry in three or four words, what would you call it?

Raw.

Animated.

Dope.

Revolutionary.

11.   What is most of your poetry about? (What specific themes do you cover?)

Love, relationships, heartache, life, social problem, and stuff like that.

12.   How long have you been writing and performing poetry?

For 7 years now.

13.   What did you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far with poetry?

I’ve had the opportunity to open up for Lupe Fiasco, Common, Talib Kweli, Rakim, Nappy Roots, Al B. Sure,  and Eric Roberson just to name a few. I’ve spoken at rallies and town hall meetings all because of poetry, but my greatest opportunity as far as doing this is being able to show my daughter that she should never be afraid to follow her dreams.

14.   What do you feel distinguishes you from other poets?

I just bring a different energy to the spoken word scene. I try to be as transparent as possible with my art. I make it easy for people to see all of me.

15.   What was your most embarrassing moment as an artist?

I don’t get embarrassed, at all. True story.

16.   What does your family think of your poetry and do they support you?

My family loves what I do. They call me the superstar of the family.

17.   What do you do when you’re not doing poetry?

I do graphic designs, mentor younger guys in St. Louis, perform at hip-hop events and I have my own clothing line of brand merchandise.

18.   Which poem or poems do you love to perform the most and why?

I love performing my pieces about relationships because they are the ones that I connect with the audience the most.

19.   Where would you like to see yourself within the next 3 to 5 years as an artist?

5 years from now I’ll  be a motivational speaker and entrepreneur.I’ll be a grammy award winning artist and my image and brand will be a multi-million dollar empire. I’ll have my product and merchandise all over the world. I’ll have 2 best selling books. Can’t you see it too?

20.   What do you do to get ready for a show?

I usually watch Michael Jackson videos on my phone before I hit the stage. Then I find a restroom and say a prayer.

21.   What is your wildest poet/poetry story?

The wildest thing that’s ever happened to me was being in a crowded, noisy open mic, but when I started spitting my piece, the whole room got so silent that I started whispering and every person could still hear me. I was even whipering “can you hear me in the back?” and the folks in the back were whispering “Yes”. Craziest thing ever.

22.   What has been the worst nightmare for you as a poet? How did you get through it all?

Getting on stage and forgetting my words. Hence the reason I hardly ever perform a piece that I am not 100% comfortable with.

23.   What is the furthest show from home that you have done?

I would have to say spitting at Village Underground and The Nuyorican Café in NYC.

24.   If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be? Why?

I would love to do spoken word piece with The Beatles… because it’s The Beatles.

25.   How do you think you would be remembered by people if something were to suddenly happen to you?

I hope people remember me as being a good father.

26.   As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?

I want a grammy award for best spoken word album, and I’ll win one in a few years.

27.   How has your poetry evolved from your first poem to one of your recent poems?

I’ve grown a lot so I think my poetry has as well. I still talk about the same stuff for the most part, I just think now I have more freedom with what  I can get away with because I don’t really care much about impressing people. I used to write because I wanted to perform my poems and wanted them to sound dope. Now I just hope they sound like my thoughts.

28.   What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?

My daughter.

29.   What do you think makes you and your type of poetry unique from other poets?

I’m unique, and my poetry is an extention of me. I don’t sound like other poets for the same reason I don’t look like other poets, or talk like other poets, or listen like other poets. I’m just me, and that’s all it takes to be different.

30.   As an artist how would you define success?

Success is the distance between genius and insanity. You do the same thing over and over again: if nothing changes you’re a lunatic, but if obstacles start falling down, you’re a rocket scientist.

31.   If you had to think of a slogan that could leave a positive impact for everyone what with your slogan be?

Serve God.

Spread Love.

Speak Life.

32.   What projects or products do you have or that are in the works?

Currently working on an EP titled ROYALTY that I hope to drop sometime in Summer 2014

33.   Do you have any links where people can see you? 

You can check out my clothing line, videos, music, twitter, instagram, facebook, and anything else at www.iamcoreyblack.com.

34.   Is there anyone special you would like to thank for helping you become who you are as an artist?

I just want to thank every single person that’s every came to a show, clicked on a link to listen to a song or watch a video, supported my online shop, or just told me they think I’m dope. That lil push goes such a long way and I love everyone for their love and support they have shown me over the years.

 

Complete the following sentences.

1.       Without poetry, I would be: working at Frito-Lay.

2.       Poetry is: in everything, if you look for it.

3.       My poetry makes me feel: alive.

4.       I write poetry because: it’s therapy.

5.       Support poetry because: it’s good for your soul!

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

 If you read all of this, you rock!!!!

See Corey Black, the WordSpace Third Fridays at Dallas Poetry Slam feature, on Friday, February 21, 2014.

Founded in 1994 by Clebo Rainey and his wife Naomi, Dallas Poetry Slam is the oldest and most respected Poetry Slam in the Metroplex.