How Did You Get into Poetry?

In so many words, I get this all the time: "So, you have a technical background in the construction industry with an architecture/engineering related degree, yet you're an artist?? How did you get into that?!" 

How Did You Get into Poetry?

It was my senior year in college.  I was 22.  My roommate at the time was deeply interested in poetry and drug me to local café in Bryan, TX.  I remember the lazy, worn-down couches and the smell of cigarette smoke that were far from attractive.  I also remember how mediocre I thought the talent was; the entertainment was suitable for a “let’s get away from the house” kind of moment but not exactly something I would have wanted to pay money for.  Perhaps it was the way poets were reading from books, tablets, napkins, or whatever they had in their hands while making little to no eye-contact during monotoned oration.  Truthfully, outside of my fruity little cocktail I was getting bored quickly.  Then along came Mike Guinn.

A tall, black man with nothing to read from was being welcomed to the stage by standing ovation.  I was intrigued.  Who is this?  I watched closely as he moved the mic and stand away from him before he performed with passion and a sound that commanded the room.  I had never seen anything like it.  I was hooked. 

My roommate and I got back to the apartment and playfully tried to imitate the talent from that night.  Low and behold, this girl thought I had a little potential and suggested I perform the following week at that same café.  Lord Jesus.  Eventually I obliged; her persuasion was pushy.  I performed and performed again.  I liked it and I suppose the crowd liked me too as I accepted an invitation to be a featured guest just as Mike was.  I later won the first slam competition I had ever entered before winning my spot on the Houston “VIP” Slam team to compete nationally.  (Both occasions were a BIG deal).  From there, people began to hire me to perform and that’s when things really took off.  

Through time and maturation, I’ve learned to appreciate the words of poetry and not just the performance.  So, to all poets who read, keep reading and ignore ignorant people who don’t know how to appreciate your form.  It may take a while, but hopefully understanding and admiration will develop for them as it has for me.  There is poetry for the page and poetry for the stage.  Beautiful in their own right, poetry has taught me to love both.  

Shout out to Krystle Wilson, Mike Guinn, Revolutions Café, and to all the poets I’ve met along the way.  Thank you for the influences you made that helped shape my poetry.