Wayman Barnes 12.21.02
A Conversation with Poetri
Poetri the Poet! The 2000 L.A. Grand Slam Champion! Featured on Russell Simmons' "Def Poetry Jam" on HBO! A star of the Broadway show of the same name! On the hot new BET show, Life Tracks! That guy on the Jimi Hendrix commercial on VH1! One of the hosts of the largest and hottest weekly poetry venues in the nation, Da' Poetry Lounge! And on and on and on.
I recently asked Poetri if he would do an E-mail interview and this is what I got:
Wayman Barnes: How are you doing? It has been really cool reading about you in all the big time magazines and such. Congratulations. I am so happy for you (And only slightly jealous).
I was wondering if you would be interested in being interviewed for the LitRave website - you'd be our first - so the folks here in LA will know what you've been up to. I thought we could have it be an E-mail conversation. We would write back and forth about twenty times or so and I would post what we wrote verbatim.
Starting with this one: How do the Krispy Kremes in NY compare to the ones in LA?
Poetri: First of all, since you are only slightly jealous, I guess it is okay.
Second of all, I am doing fine, very fine, actually if it weren't so doggone cold (record breaking cold), I would be doing super-duper fine!
Third of all, How do you know that I am going to say yes to the interview...and you already have asked me the first question...hahaahha. Of course, I say YES! So, you were right to send the first question and a great first question it is.
There is NOOOOOOO comparison. The Krispy Kreme donuts here in New York are far superior than the ones in LA! In LA, I only munched on the hot glaze ones...ah, but over here, I choose the apple filled ones and the glaze...ahhhh what a delight!
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Wayman Barnes: This is the obvious question, so I will go ahead and get it out of the way: How does it feel to be one of the first poets to ever perform on ... BROADWAY?
Poetri: Well, that is an obvious one...but are we the first? I guess that is what they are saying. I'm not sure if it is because we are the first or is it just the fact that we ARE ON BROADWAY, but I am feeling GREEEEAAAAAAAAT! This is such a blessing from GOD! Who would have ever thought that I would ever make it to Broadway...sure I had aspirations as an actor, but to make it to the GREAT WHITE WAY (I hate that they call it that) doing poetry, just a hobby that I would be doing for free every Tuesday at Da' Poetry Lounge, is beyond my stretch of vocabulary to explain.
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Wayman Barnes: Which of your poems are you doing in the show and have you had to change them for the NY audiences?
Poetri: I am doing
Sometimes I pretend I am Michael Jackson
and a new poem that I co-wrote and perform with Steve Coleman
All the poems we all had to edit for time purposes. It's a good thing we did, cause with 43 poems done unedited the show would have gone about 26 or 27 hours...now it is just 2 hours...
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Wayman Barnes: Do you have the time to work on new poems? And are there any places you prefer to go to try them out? How is the NY poetry scene compared to LA?
Poetri: I think that I have plenty...well maybe not plenty, but certainly enough time to write new material, but I haven't. I am just plain too exausted to write new stuff right now. This is fun and exciting, but also draining. We do 8 shows a week, our only off day is Monday which is often schelduled for press and TV commercials. This Monday I have to be up by 7:30AM to record a beer commercial and then be at a VH1 PSA for Black History at 3:30. This is supposed to be my day off! But, beleive me Wayman, a brother like me is NOT complaining. I thank the Lord everyday for these incredible blessings that he has bestowed upon me.
So, to the second and third part, I really haven't gone out too much performing at local poetry clubs, been to the Nuyarican (of course), but that is about it. Beau Sia, one of the other cast members, is starting a weekly poetry night for the cast to work on new material and to keep our writing chops fresh. Even though, I haven't seen hardly any of the New York Poetry scene this trip out here, I have seen a couple of spots in previous trips out here and although they are all great and dandy, nothing Wayman, NOTHING compares to Da' Poetry Lounge in LA, baby!!!!!!!! The largest weekly poetry venue in the WORLD!!!
GreenWay Court Theater
Da' Poetry Lounge
544 N. Fairfax Ave.
One block South of Melrose
9 pm- 12 midnight
(sorry never pass up an opportunity to promote)
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Did you see me on Showtime at the Appollo tonight?
Wayman Barnes: I'm glad you brought up Da' Poetry Lounge. Believe it or not, I talk to LA poetry types who have never been there (and there are a lot of people who read LitRave who are new to the scene). Could you tell them a little bit about Da' Poetry Lounge and why they should go?
Poetri: I can't believe that there are poetry fans in LA and they have never been to the Mecca of the open mic poetry scene. The largest, hippest, weekly poetry venue in the nation...wait a minute this sounds too much like a commercial. The funny thing is Da' Lounge does seem too good to be true. Everytime I talk to the new people that come they are amazed at how much of a big family we are. We get about 400 people over the course of the night and we are all just laughing and having a great time with spoken word. The room is filled with love and you must experience it to understand and believe it. My words do not give it justice. Ohhh, and the poetry is the best poetry that you will find anywhere. HBO comes there to scout for poets for the "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam". This season 6 or 7 poets from Da' Lounge will represent on the TV show. The first two seasons another 5 or six were picked out of our home. Matter of fact, when anybody is looking for hot poets they come there. BET, ABC Showtime, Fox, Movie producers, poetry tour producers, Norman Lear...and the list just goes on and on.
I am rambling on and on...it truly is a must see experience. It's even good when I am NOT there to host it...hahhahahahaahaha
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Wayman Barnes: One of the things I love most about Da' Poetry Lounge is how it inspires people to start their own readings. How did you get started and was there a venue or person who inspired you?
PS: I missed your PS from the other day. No, I didn't see you on Showtime at the Apollo. If they repeat it, let me know. I'd love see that (as long as you don't get booed).
Poetri: Ohhhhh, yes! There is a very special person that got many of us started on the whole LA poetry scene. She doesn't think that we appreciate her as much as we do...but if she ever does read this, I want to let RONI WALTER know that she is the ONLY reason, I got into poetry. (well, her and GOD, of course).
Roni is like the mother of the whole spoken word scene. She was hosting large venues waaaaaay back in 91! She was the first poet to host a weekly venue at the Comedy store. She has had sooo many first! She was the first poetry HOST for HOUSE OF BLUES! I'm telling you she was bringing in 100 to 200 people to her local spots, before anybody was even thinking about hosting their own spot. I was truly inspired and will always give my love and apreciation to RONI WALTER.
Thank you Roni!
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Wayman Barnes: I've always been curious if your using the name Poetri was a sort of tribute to Roni and her Backstreeet Poetri shows. Is that were you first started performing poetry?
Poetri: Hahahahaha, that is good! That is not my intention, but I sure could do that, cause I definitly got my start performing poetry through her, but I got my name through something much higher...GOD!
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Wayman: Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it like?
Poetri: Yes I do...sorta! I later rewrote it and made it a lot better. But, the first poem I wrote I think was about a talking tree...weird, I know. But, trees do talk you know...?
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Wayman Barnes: Was the talking tree poem something you performed? And if not, do you remember the first poem you read in front in of an audience? Did you have one of those (angel voices) "aaaaauuuugh" moments where you thought "this is what I'm going to do with my life?"
Poetri: Yes, I have performed a newer fresher, more mature version of the talking tree. ( I think you might have heard it...I slammed with it acouple times). Funny you should ask about my first piece that I performed, cause I rewrote the talking tree piece and that was the second or third piece I ever performed. The first piece is called "Must be the Chicken". About a young girl who looks like she is about 22, but really is 14! Ohhhhh, I was talking about the R. Kelly stuff before it happened! I must be like Cleo or something!
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Wayman Barnes: How did you get involved with Da' Poetry Lounge?
Poetri: Now that is a short question for a long answer...allow me to try to make a long story short.
Dante Bosco, the actor, (he has a movie out right now called "Biker Boys", with Laurence Fishbourne, Lisa Bonet, Derick Luke, and Lawrence Tate) (Hey, I have to promote my buddies). Anyway, he started his own spot entitled Dante's Poetry Lounge. It started off in his hous and branched out to bigger venues, cause it was out growing his house. But, every venue he went to, within a few months it would outgrow it, and would have to move on. So, he was constantly moving and also taking different weeks off, cause of his acting.
Shihan and I had been friends with Dante, since we met with Roni (I'm telling you Roni was the bomb, if it weren't for her, I would not be where I am today). Gimel was already Dante's DJ. Dante asked Shihan and I to come on board and help with the hosting the days he wasn't there. Well, the rest is HISTORY. We changed the name from Dante's Poetry Lounge to just Da' Poetry Lounge. And the more busy Dante got, the less he came around. Pretty soon, we were running things by ourselves. But, Dante is and always will be our partner, cause without him, there wouldn't be Da' Poetry Lounge.
That wasn't short was it?
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Wayman Barnes: I have spoken to several people who feel that being involved with Da Poetry Lounge is being a part of history: "Something I'll be able to tell my grandchildren about." And I've often heard it put on par with NY's Nuyorican. Has the success of Da Poetry Lounge and how much it has meant to so many people been a surprise to you? Or was it always part of some bigger plan?
Poetri: WoW! Good Question! Hey, you are good at this! Ever thought of doing this for a living?
Yea, I used to laugh when people used to tell us that we are making history, cause we never thought of it like that. We just wanted a place to recite poetry amongst our peers. The fact that it has turned into this unbelievable machine is an added blessing. God is so good! I can't wait to tell MY grandchildren about what we have done there. I still remember the first time I overheard someone talking about Da' Poetry Lounge. I was so surprised and excited, that people were talking about us. Now, since poetry has taken on this resurgence, everyone is talking about Da' Poetry Lounge...all the way across the country, people know about Da' Poetry Lounge! When they introduced me on Appollo, the host even mention Da' Poetry Lounge. I was shocked!
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Wayman Barnes: How did you first come to the atention of Russell Simmons and/ or the Def Poetry Jam?
Poetri: What?! You mean besides my good looks, witty charm and irrestible personality? Hahaha. I actually caught the eye of Stan Lathan, who is Russell Simmons business partner and also the director of the HBO series and a host of other shows ranging from Sanford and Son to WKRP in Cincinnati to Waltons to The Bernie Mac Show to almost everything else. The guy is amazing and been around for quite some time now. Anyway, he came to Da' Lounge looking for poets for the TV show, found Shihan and myself and from there it just took off.
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Wayman Barnes: Very surreal. As I sit down to write this I hear your voice and turn around to see you on a TV commercial (Jimi Hendrix spot on VH1). Way to go!
So Stan Lathan sees you at Da Poetry Lounge and that leads to the Def Poetry Jam on HBO which leads to the touring show which leads to the Broadway show which leads to Showtime at the Appollo and TV commercials on VH1 and so on and so forth. Has this whole experience felt fast and furious or do you have a gameplan? Do you have a manager and/or an agent for your poetry career? What's next?
Sorry it took so long to get back with you on question number 13. But, as you may or may not know my girlfriend is in town and I proposed to her on Febuary 14th. Yeaaaaah, 20 years from now I can warn other men like me not to do it! HAHAHAHAHA
All this that is happenning in my life is amazing. God has worked wonders. It all has happened so fast. It definitly has not been over night, cause it has taken me 14 years to start finally heading toward the direction that I want to be. But since the ball started moving, it certainly feels like overnight. As far as a gameplan...hahahahaha. I mean yea, I have a game plan now for the future and what I want to do with my newfound celebrityhood, but I did not plan THIS! God planned this. Only he can take what I did for recreation and stress relief and allow me to make money with it and create a way for me to go into acting. Wow, God is amazing!
Yes, I have a poetry manager who handles AlL my poetry stuff and now is venturing into my acting stuff and I also have an agent. I am with the William Morris Agency. What is next? Well, besides my own television show (Da' Poetri Show), I want to do movies. I am in the works right now for a new cartoon series with Disney and things are just looking up. What's next? A new life full of joy and happiness and hopefully spreading the word through my actions and voice about my Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. Halleluyah!
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Wayman Barnes: Damn. Sounds like I am going to be spending my whole life congratulating you: Congratulations on the engagement.
You may not remember this, but about a year and a half ago a group of us were standing outside of Denny's at 3 in the morning shooting the shit and gossiping about this person and that. Eventually, the conversation got around to what we each wanted to accomplish within the next few years. And every time I hear about something you've done I think about that conversation, because you have done all the things you said you would do (Believe me, I've had a lot of similar conversations and I think it is safe to say that you are the only person I know who has actually followed thru.). Way to go!
There are two other things that pop into my head when I think of you. The first one is that you do lots of charity work for the community (Is your sister still working for the Peace Day festival?). And the second one is your mother. I think she knows more about basketball than anyone I've ever met. Still blows my mind just thinking about her.
Anyway, thank you for doing this interview. It has been fun. And keep me informed about what you are doing. I definitely want to see Da Poetri Show (And Poetri Da Movie).
Poetri: Thank you, Wayman.
This interview has been the longest interview I have ever had! But, also the most fun! And I mean that...FOR REAL! Thanks on the congrats for the engagement. I think I vaguely remember that conversation we had outside of Denny's. (After all, we have had a lot of crazy conversations outside of Denny's) I truly miss those days. Anyway, I am sure that if we all believe and truly work hard, we will all reach our goals if it is in tune with what GOD wants us to do. Cause it all boils down to the BIG GUY! I don't think that I am prophetic (or whatever that thing is called when a person sees the spiritual future), I just think I am blessed.
Yes, my sister still does the PEACE DAY events. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have done as much charity work as I have. I owe it all to her for pushing me and keeping me doing it. I love it and I love her! Hey, I still remember you in your TIGGER suit. Ohhhh, you were great. Why does this e-mail sound like I am on my death bed and living out my last days...now, I certainly wish and pray that I am not prophetic (or whatever that thing is called when a person that thing sees the spiritual future).
Last thing. How did you know that my mother knew so much about basketball? Holla...thanks for the interview.
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Knowledge posting: I had Nicklee featuring and she raised the temperature of the Hot Spot with tight flows. Sound bites - Bronwyn 'My legs will dance for your lame ones..you've housed me for 18 years and kept me in your belly for 9 months...you were hot shit in the drug world, you're just shit now. Krystoff 'Maybe someday we'll get past this race thing...maybe someday we'll all be the same shade of gray...The black Saracens owned the Mediterranean, they became the Spanish Mores...'Bronwyn 'When you touch me I swear I'm floating, I swear I'm a fucking cloud...your smile melts ice...'Moth'...folding and stacking the slackest of straitjackets', Jasmine'I think we should all just fuck until we're the same color...from a totem pole to rock and roll, my parents are the real deal...when Towers fell did anyone care what colors were under the red...'Buddha Hat'....you know you're kinda nice, I really don't wanna fuck you up...it's about me sticking my dick in life without a condom...dreaming about you I become the horniest cowboy in Flavor Country..I'm common so why are you so complicated?All this talk about getting your life situated..Moth'I'm always smitten with these rhymes that I've written...I've learnt that we're all just food for worms...'Derrick'Faith without effort means nothing...our attitude creates conditions...'Nicklee' A true goddess is judgment free, not even knowing what judgment means....let he who is without sin cast the first stone and Mary stood alone...to blend two hearts is to blend two lives...we are born into an existence that has existed longer than us, than can be fathomed by us... a spiritual being is a beautiful thing shining brighter than the stars....realize what we need is not held in material things...I am a scavenger in this life seeking whatever joy and happiness can be found...The whisper of tequila, her speech is slurred and she speaks in Spanish words....in this life it's pain we're all fighting so tonight opt for elation....my heart's other half was many miles apart....I'm a mixed up kid from a mixed up seed, I'm half Persian, one quarter Filipino, ine eighth Dutch, I felt like disowning me, wanting to change my nationality...it's time for the mutts to shout out...we hurt because we don't fit in completely...I, by myself am a beautiful ethnicity and completely me...I see a kangaroo playing a didgery doo...people destroy your faith in love and people restore your faith in love..The title of the play 'Life' and the author's name 'A' last name 'Deity'....have you ever felt that pull on your heart and whispered the words 'We'll never part'..squeeze someone's soul...our fire never to be quenched...venomous man, you can't silence us, justice is our fight..some if they could would invent a rose without thorns...without rain, the rays of the sun would seem mundane...maybe you'd rather accept a plastic rose, although it never grows..'And that was Nicklee throwing down.She was my feature. Buddha Hat' As the animal lord of this whorish way of life...when the mob chants you've got no way of being heard..'Kelly'..Michael..he's been through everything God could throw at him...'Kelly's ode to Moth.Bronwyn' fear that rapists and murderers would infest my room instead of unicorns and fairies...emptiness past gave me abundance present. Jasmine performed 'Writer's Block'.I feel this was the tightest night of poetry ever at the Hot spot and others agreed with me.The Hot Spot is listed on the Slam Arena flyers at the Lounge now just in time for the half year anniversary on December 28th.So come on by and help make it real special.I'm having a gig on January 5th at 1642 Las Palmas.A club called 'Blue'I.It holds 650 people.It will be a battle of the poemcees.Ten of us so far plus beatboxers.Should be about $5 entry fee.e-mail me if interested and I'll tell you who's on the line up.Knowledge signing off.
Knowledge posting the long overdue of Steve Connell and his ffeature at the Harmony gallery.Steve...'Tupac said that the only thing I fear in death is reincarnation....I'm Joshua and I speak in a language of ticks and clicks so aborigines say 'I don't know what you're saying....the hot unbelievable of coming..Judas looks somewhere just before the money scarred his palm....I am a quartz crystal in a bowl of cherries....I am a smile at a Klan rally..we all blaze only for limited days...we are bound by time, strapped to its back..listen closely son, greatness is my birthright...I go to God's house twice weekly playing poker for halos...you cannot catch it when my mind goes 'cos my mind wanders..as llong as we have each other we can never be lost...I could not get your touch out of my mind...i learnt that real love is that it happens to both of us... I will learn the inner workings of transcendence..'Dana Snow...'I hate mirrors.When I'm not looking in a mirror I'm handsome..This is for those that want to stay in their jobs, stupid sheep...Is Amen the prequel to X-men...my carma just ran over her dogma.'Manuel told Steve'If I was a beautiful, voluptuous woman I'd let you come inside me without a rubber....the youth of today they do not have speakers, they ahve implements of death..'Phi Harmonic 'We're all looking for Aretha Franklin's respect...20,000 negro leagues under the beat gives creedence to clear waters..the deeper the embrace the deeper the kiss..'Mike the Poet'In these tumultuous times every day is a struggle..$1,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment.That shit is ridiculous...fools are fighting over the dollar, not Allah.Don't let the dogma fool you, they're all a bunch of greedy motherfuckers...in the city of fantasy too many ignore reality....$7,000 shopping sprees in the landscape of Disney...I'll tell you all the emperor has no clothes..'Knowledge signing off.
Knowledge posting:The Hot Spot was cooking Saturday.Moth was the feature.I had a leaving party and it was the most packed since me and Azikwe had a joint birthday there.He did a 40 minute feature in which he also broke down some interesting historical facts about Tulsa.I think he said that the worst race riots ever in America took place there.Many were sorry that he had to go back there.He sold 5 Cd's that night so he made an impact.He explained in one poem how he arrived at the name 'Moth'.His butterfly tattoo started to look more and more like a moth.Other readers were Ivan doing 14 hits of marijuana' figuratively not literally.Barry Miller performed Odious Jones from 'Normal,Ca'.Tight cover for his CD.He's hitchhiking holding the sign that says'Normal,Ca'.Mouth ripped it performing 'I'm a terrorist'.Joshua beatboxed over one of Moth's pieces that was pumping on the DJ's CD turntables.Yep, I had a DJ for the night that I just met that day while street performing and he may be a regular fixture.Josh also did a solo spot later.He said he would feature at my spot Dec.21st.I know he does poetry and I look forward to him showing people that side of him.Jasmine and Bronwyn also flowed.Eric did some comedy and all in all it was a good night.Knowledge signing off.