Big Poppa E and some thoughts on traveling poets
"We ask audiences to accept our words as their words, to place them upon their own tongues, for these pages are our bodies, these tears are our blood, and they have the power to heal. everyone is welcome to preach their pain and sing their suffering, shout their joys and weep and moan and gnash their teeth to a hip-hop beat. and redemption is granted to anyone with the courage to speak their truth, and the self-righteous among us who point heavenward to justify their bullshit are judged harshly by five randomly-selected judges and thrown off the pulpit until the next slam..."
-Big Poppa E - excerpt from "The Word"
I arrived in Seattle at midnight on some Monday. I went to the Seattle Poetry Slam the very next day, before I had unpacked my clothes from the suitcase my sister and her husband got me before I left for Syria. That day I performed a poem for the last time. A poem that I no longer need to perform. I'll keep it in my arsenal, but now it's a relic. Like an antique pistol, it might fire, but they're making better weapons nowadays. In any case, I digress.
That Tuesday, the host for the evening announced that Big Poppa E would be featuring in two weeks. I thought it was quite random that a poet that I had met in Austin was featuring in Seattle. Anyway, two weeks passed and as I entered The Rebar after having an "Equal Rights" stamped on my wrist for re-entry, I glanced to my right and saw Big Poppa E talking with some guy leaning against the bar. It was a trip seeing him there. He saw me and we hugged it out, and he immediately invited me to sit with him and his friend for the evening. He asked if I was performing that night, and I told him I had just finished a poem that I wanted to perform in the open mic. We discussed performing, touring, slam politics, the promised land, it was wonderful. Bear in mind, this is a man I had met twice before.
We were not friends by any means, but he remembered me from Austin and we bonded as only people who keep dancing when the music stops playing can. I wish I could say that we connected because we both clicked, that there was some poetic undercurrent that we immersed ourselves in, but the reality is that Big Poppa E is just a genuinely kind dude. He speaks with his heart and is not afraid of putting himself out there. It's never difficult to talk with those kinds of people. I envy him, and hope that I can be as open and honest with people as he is. That conversation reminded me of a conversation I had with another traveling poet a few months ago, and I've come to a realization. Successful traveling poets have got it figured out man. And as much as I want to be of their kind, I know that if I were to somehow transform into someone like that, it wouldn't be real. I'd be faking it. Probably as much as I fake being a hermit. I would say in truth, I'm somewhere in between, if such a place existed, but I'm afraid that there's really no in between in matters like this. Honesty is like love, you either have it, or you don't.