Interview With Slam Champion and Poet: B. Sharise Moore

Yesterday, Slam champion and poet, B. Sharise Moore and I discussed her career as a poet and her thoughts on poetry, slam, and rap. Here is the transcription of that interaction.

Owl: Who is B. Sharise Moore?
B. Sharise: First and foremost, I am a Black Woman. I am a product of New Jersey. I’m a dreamer, an educator, a writer, and a thinker.

Owl: What is poetry?
B. Sharise: Poetry is subjective. To some it is sunrise, to others, a sunset. I hope my poems are thoughtful, searching, gritty, and fresh.

Owl: How did you get started in poetry and spoken word poetry?
B. Sharise: I started writing poetry when I was 13. I was inspired by Countee Cullen’s poem “Yet Do I Marvel” and never looked back.I wasn’t REALLY inspired to do performance poetry until I was a Junior at Rutgers University. Twice a year, there was an event on campus called Poethic. It was an open mic in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. Each event had an amazing feature. In 1998, Jessica Caremoor was the feature. I was amazed. She inspired me to perform my poetry. From there, I started competing in slams throughout the state of NJ and in NYC.

Owl: What is the difference between poetry and spoken word?
B. Sharise: Poetry & spokenword can be interchangeable. Poems meant for the page CAN be performed. Spokenword oftentimes doesn’t read well. This is why I tend to refer to myself as a performance poet. I am a poet who performs.

Owl: What is the difference between poetry and rap?
B. Sharise: Rap is an offshoot or byproduct of poetry, but it is influenced by oratory. Rap is also much more confined than poetry. Rap is dependent upon cadence, rhythm, and rhyme. Poetry can employ these devices, but it isn’t dependent upon them.

Owl: You have a poem in your new Chapbook, “How To Love”, can you discuss the impetus for writing that?
B. Sharise: My poem “How to Love” is a persona poem in the voice of Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of Emmitt Till. In the poem, she gives Lil Wayne a history lesson on her pain as a result of having to bury her murdered & disfigured son. I wrote it bc it was the only way I could accurately respond to Wayne’s deplorable lyrics comparing sex w/ Till’s lynching. Those lyrics really made me pause…they made me sick, they embarrassed me, and alarmed me. I wrote it in Ms. Mobley’s voice as I would have imagined her reaction if she were alive.

Owl: What do you see as your purpose for your poetry?
B. Sharise: This may sound strange, but it has always been very difficult for me to take ownership of my poetry. It doesn’t come from me. Not really anyway…I don’t write a lot of “positive” or “uplifting” poetry because I don’t see the world through that lens. I have seen and experienced injustice and that is what I write about. I try to write poetry that makes readers uncomfortable. If I’m not making my readers/listeners uncomfortable, I’m not doing my job as a poet. My poetry is very political. I question the system. I question my own choices. I question our collective reactions to oppression/adversity & I ask my readers to think. I hope my poems are vehicles for thought. We need to think about the ugly things and the magic we need to make them beautiful.

Owl: How has social media advanced your brand?
B. Sharise: Social Media has enhanced my brand by making me more accessible to networking with other like minds. I’ve booked shows, sold product, and discovered alternate avenues to publishing through social media. I’m grateful for it.

Owl: What is your advice to those that have not yet done what you have but would like to follow or emulate?
B. Sharise: I always tell writers to read. Great writers, read a lot. I also have a list of poets and books I can give them to research. If they are interested in performing, I’d say practice and observe. Look up different performance poets. Observe their styles. There are so many performance poets and no 2 are alike. Develop your style. Study your craft and start performing!

Owl: and what is the new chapbook about and how can people access it?
B. Sharise: The new chapbook is called “A Haunted House In Summer”. It can be purchased on B. Sharise Moore’s Haunted [Website].

And I Wasn’t Even Going To Go: Another Asylum Slam Piece

“I kinda see everyone as competition. I’m a very competitive person. But I think that’s good. Competition is great. And as long as it’s friendly and not a malicious thing, then I think it’s cool.” – Janet Jackson

 

“Competition is a sin.” – John D. Rockefeller

 

I would not say that I am adverse to competition. I am possibly more incline to a friendly test of skills where the judges and score keepers are held by objective rules. I am possibly more inclined to a sportsman like public comparison of skills that yield rewards of a tangible nature than just a stroking of my id. Unfortunately, I do not always find my Self with the skill set of the athlete or martial artist, so much of the arenas I have as options are limited to highly subjective criteria for assessing talent. Also, the pot is not typically worth my efforts.

 

Given this understanding, when my fiancee(B. Sharise Moore for those new to the Asylum or just slow), began discussing yet another slam competition she had decided to compete in, my “Oh, lawd, here we go again” meter went from the low stress polarity to the “the bullshyt can only last so long” anxiety side. Being a fairly level minded chap, I did not express this reading in any overly emotional manner; no, instead I whipped out my now fairly robust argument in favor of Bri not entering spoken word poetry competitions. Of course, no matter how robust my logical prowess, her enthused response was to show me the email of the guidelines to the competition and to state,”this one is different” in that really irresistible way she states these sorts of things. And, sure, I am the supportive mate from Hannibal’s Carthage — if she wants to walk elephants through the Pyrenees and the Alps to get her point across, somebody tell Barbar, we going to Rome. However, that support comes with my awesome power of decisive split emotional resource allocation–that is, yeah, of course, I’m down, but I’m going kicking and screaming.

 

However, Bridget was absolutely right, it was a very interesting twist on a concept that has probably grown small malignant cystic lesions in my belly. Roy Lichtenstein, a highly renown graphic artist most known for his style of pop art with its profuse use of halftone and spatial hashing most reminiscent of comic books and strips, has a retrospective at the National Gallery of Art. In cohesion, Bus Boys & Poets event coordinators organized a slam in which each of the contestants would be given one of Lichenstein’s works to write to. The first round would be full length pieces inspired by his visual art. The second round would be a best out of three head-to-head haiku battle. And the last round would be the finalists’ choice.

 

So, Bri wrote, and revised, and wrote some more, and revised, while I played coach, quality control, and counselor.

 

Beyond the anxiety of convincing your Self to push somebody to do something you are developing strong angst about, is still the wonderful experience of watching a master in the process of craftswomanship. In college, I trained in visual arts, media communication, and web technology. Yet, even with all that writing, and all the writing I’ve done in building my own catalog, never presented me with such a tutelage in the process of written art as being loved by this woman. Her sheer passion and appreciation of the craft of poetry is inspiration. I have watched great rap artists in the studio forge fantastically creative and witty works, but none have delved into the depths of a topic like this woman I have decided to share my life with. The poring over of works, the research, and the dedication to line by line being a work of art in and of them Selves has intimidated and aroused(yeah, of course, in more than one way) my own obligations to the written word. And sure, I will always have my doubts about slam, about poetry, about even the effectiveness of having a digital platform as my main medium of expression. Yet, it truly has been my joy to have been able to say I’ve associated intimately with those of these contemporary times that have such a command of the word.

 

The day of the contest began pretty early. Bri woke up hours before her usual time, and started her exercise of memorizing the poem. She spent over two hours reciting the poem and tweaking presentational elements. She rehearsed it in front of me before heading out. While my day was spent designing and developing web sites and literally shaking my head at the banter that is Twitter, Bri was losing her voice. While I packed up from my day’s work, began my process of grooming for the social encounter that is the outside world, she was getting her voice was becoming hoarse. Her walking in the door slightly reserved, but sending those signals only an observant and attentive inamorata has the communication faculties to receive that translate to: “something is wrong”.

 

“I’m not doing this…”

 

It is always interesting to listen to the robust argument talented people give for not performing. And, as a person that is becoming more and more proficient at sharing a mind with another, I simply listened, nodded, nudged, and helped to pick out shoes. I was, however, aware of her voice. That was no excuse, it was logistical concern. The time was a factor, and me not having a ticket was a factor. But, as a person that has overcome his own set of life altering obstacles, I simply nodded, nudged, and told her she looked great in her outfit. I think it helps to be able recognize an anxiety in an extroverted personality, because I’ve seen most people respond too seriously and in effect, negate greatness. The most salient act one can perform when others are verbally doubting them Selves is to simply listen…and make sure they pick out the right pair of earrings.

 

That said…

 

Bri eventually was able to get in contact with the event coordinator; the event was running late and she would be alright coming more tardy than scheduled. I drove(hell hath no fury like drivers on the BW(Baltimore/Washington) Parkway on a Friday night) while she practiced her poem and joked about the raspy quality of her voice. While I saturated the roads with my brand of road rage, Bri vocalized various poems she could use if(I used the word,”when”) she made it to the third round.

 

Bus Boys and Poets has become on of my favorite locations. If you are in the DC/DMV area and are not familiar, or visiting, I highly recommend it. The bookstore is phenomenal, the food is quality, and the atmosphere is comfortable while professional. The host of the WHAAM Slam was Sonya Renee, National Slam winner, international poet, and a performer on TvOne’s Verses & Flow. She introduced the various rules of the Slam and also played the part of the sack goat. The sack goat is the test run spoken word artists that tunes the judges in the audience. The judges are randomly selected(I hate randomly selected judges), and after her piece, they all held their small whiteboards up with a score between 0 and 10 written with a black marker on it. The audience is primed to give low scores “boo’s” and high scores “cheers”.

 

The artists in the first round were Andrew, Droopy, Big Homey, Tahani, Chris August, Anthony, Pages, Twain, Clint Smith, and of course, B. Sharise Moore. As stated, they all had to prepare a piece inspired by a particular one of Lichtenstein’s works. The first poets to be eliminated were Andrew, Big Homey, Twain, and Droopy. The second round would pit Bri against Pages, Clint against Anthony, and Tahani against Chris. Bri would win her head to head haiku rounds and move on to the third round. The third round began with Chris performing as calibrator. Clint went first in the actually final round for the pot. Tahani would go second. And Bri performed her phenomenal piece, D-Day.

 

Tahani would come in third with a score of 27.1. Clint would take second place with a score of 28.1. And Bri would walk away with the money packet after earning receiving a cumulative score of 28.7. Suffice it to say, when in doubt, just keep grinding.