St. Louis’ poetry scene has countless numbers of gifted and talented spoken word artists. In my opinion, however, the last few years of St.Louis poetry has seemed to lack a bit in artistry and just the popularity of it as a whole. The platform of spoken word poetry is now shifting into a fresh and new direction. Veterans are putting on shows, facilitating programs in schools, and the passion of the art is back.
As a fan of spoken word poetry, I love hearing what has been manifesting with the seasoned poets and with new artists as well. For those of you who are familiar with STL poetry you should know about Legacy Books & Café. It has been an arena that has hosted many of poetry events and slams. It has also been a place where many poets have grown and where legendary poets have graced the stage with their talent. Recently, Urb Poetry had a Slam where poets who won will be going out of state competing against other great poets. I was blessed with the opportunity to interview one of the alternates to the Urb Poetry team. This brother is a bright young talent who has A LOT to say about spoken word poetry and where he fits in it. I bring you Greg The Poet.
KB: How long have you been writing?
GTP: I have been writing since the 3rd grade, which consisted of raps and making songs with a group of my 3rd grade peers. Some friends and I created a rap group called the “Lil Boyz”. I don’t know what we were trying to do but, we wrote raps on the bus and got others to partake in the creation. Good times! Trying to rap led me to writing poems in the 7th grade but, in the 12th grade I created my first spoken-word piece titled “Look” in 2008. I finished that piece my first year at Missouri Western State and performed it during that same time. From there I have been writing consistently, which has been for a total of 4 years.
KB: How long have you been performing?
GTP: 4 years. From my times at Missouri Western and now but, 2011 was the year where performing started to increase and this year SLAM poetry has been my focus where I perform and compete.
KB: What made you want to make the transition from writing to performing?
GTP: I really started writing spoken word pieces and performing at the same time. So, for me there was no transition. My first piece “Look” I performed at an open mic…that’s just how it happened. So my writing came with me performing it. Also, on the campus of Missouri Western, I joined a Spoken-word group called “Soulz of Redemption”. We performed twice a semester and did open mic outside of the campus area. So, a majority of my work ended up being performed. Only when I met MK Stallings is where I realized that I have to really practice the art of performing and the art of writing spoken-word piece and SLAM poetry.
KB: Who/What are your influences?
GTP: My influences are The Last Poet, Gil-Scott Heron, Amiri Baraka, Oscar Brown Jr, Louis Reyes Rivera, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, The Black Artist Group, J.ivy, Saul Williams, Chace Infinite, Mos Def, Common, Kendrick Lamar, Dead Prez, Mike Flo, Public Enemy and Brave New Voices Poets. These are just some. What influences me is my culture, the creativity of words that allows an individual to send a message, the struggle, hip-hop, and jazz. This is who and what influences me.
KB: What made you want to begin competing in slams?
GTP: Once I founded out that you could compete with poetry and plus money was involved I was interested. But truly SLAM poetry makes you think about what you are writing and I think personally it will make me a better writer. Hopefully! I like to go heads up with some of the nicest poets in St.Louis!
KB: How do you feel about the STL poetry scene and Urb Poetry?
GTP: This is my opinion, I feel that the STL poetry could and needs to be better. Let’s look at the STL Hip-Hop scene. They have built a strong platform for their artists with events like S.L.U.M Fest. They have made sure they are represented at St.Louis based award shows and showcases like RFT’s and showcases. This can be said for other genres as well. Poetry in St. Louis doesn’t have any major festivals or showcases annually. The STL Hip-Hop scene has a collective known as the “Force” that support each other’s music and events along with collaborating with each other. The STL poetry has a small collective but it’s not enough. We need more poets to be a part of that collective. But that collective is ran out of Urb poetry — UAACD and being part of that collective takes other responsibilities that maybe other poets don’t want to deal with like VerbQuake!
I’m not talking about the collective like Soul Vibe Poetry Collective. I’m talking about what we have now. Many veteran poets have dropped the ball by leaving the scene and not producing younger poets to come behind them. Some poets are not bringing anything to the table, it’s all about doing you and getting as many poetry fans as you can get. Who has the next hot spot for poetry, a CD or new poetry book. Trust me I want all that to happen for all poets don’t get me wrong. But, all that shit is wack if the scene is not moving NOwhere! A strong collective hasn’t been built, no workshops, no poetry festival and I’m not talking about poetry reunions. I went into the public school this past spring and the students didn’t really know what poetry-spoken word-performance poetry was. They didn’t know any local poets or national poets. Why I’m saying this is because I know for a fact that some of the STL local Hip-Hop artists have been to these schools to perform. I’m just saying, it’s something called “Teen Poetry SLAM”…we should be in the schools and should have been in the schools and should already have a program established ( This year started the first year were poets went into the school to teach and build with the youth). Urb poetry and the poetry scene that I’m mainly with has NO workshops for adults or YOUTH! The STL poetry scene I have been involved in has yet collaborated with other poetry venues/platforms like St.Louis Poetry SLAM (one that I know of), St.Louis Poetry Center, St.Louis writing workshops, StudioSTL-which is for young people. I wonder do they know about spoken-word/SLAM poetry? To build a bigger scene for poetry we are going to have to get off the bullshit. We must start thinking of ways to promote, teach and reach the St.Louis people and community.
I was tempted to leave the scene once I got involved in 09 because I didn’t see any creativity except from only a hand full of poets. The city of St. Louis isn’t turning their heads to see what we are doing. If that’s true we would be in many more platforms in and around St. Louis. I suggest that St. Louis poetry scene and Urb poetry get some poetry festival going, make sure VerbQuake (UAACD/Urb Poetry youth program for teen poet to SLAM) keeps going strong, keep pushing SLAM poetry and start back sending a team to any poetry SLAM competition, promote a collective that’s more city based if possible and get ALL young poets such as myself to take over.
KB: What do you think will happen at Southern Fried?
GTP: Southern Fried is no joke. It’s going to be very exciting for me and the team. The teams competing are seasoned and Urb Poetry as a team is new to this. But I think Urb Poetry SLAM Team will do good, with two veteran and three younger poets that all have unique styles and all have strong pieces. I’m excited to see what will happen. As far as me going as an alternate and competing as a indie, I’m excited to take on this experience and I hope this helps me in my spoken-word career. I’m nervous of course because the line up is crazy talented and I just want to make sure my work is at it’s best. I still have a lot of confidence to gain!
KB: What has inspired you the most during your spoken word career thus far?
GTP: Other young poets. How my creative style and stories connect with other people.
KB: What do you wish you achieve as being an alternate on the Urb poetry team?
GTP: As long as I can give constructive advice and give support, I’m good.
Greg the Poet is competing in the Southern Fried Slam as an independent and traveling with the Urb Poetry Slam Team.