Name: Yazmin Monet Watkins
Where are you from: La Jolla/ Los Angeles “I’m a SoCal kinda gal” 😉
College: Dickinson College
When did you start writing poetry? I wrote my first poem ever in the 8th grade for my cat Tigre lol! I didn’t get in to spoken word poetry until my Junior year in college when this Posse scholar from New York started a poetry group on campus. That’s when I first found community in poetry.
Were you ever a part of a poetry organization? The Silent Poets in college helped shape my life. We would incorporate the lessons learned in the classroom into our poetry and would spit poems in random places around campus; the caf, the snar, Britton Plaza. It was a very radical time. Funny too because I was just at the Farewell to Durden Tour and a girl came up to me and was like “I remember you from that performance you guys did in the caf.” So crazy! lol. I really miss those days actually. We would meet every week and share our poems and our stories with each other. The support and community I found in that group of people helped foster a creative spirit that has stayed with me ever since.
Describe your experience with spoken word? Oh jeeze! Where to start lol! I first discovered spoken word poetry in college as a vehicle to discuss and provoke dialogue about the issues that matter most to me and my community. I actually ended up writing my senior thesis on spoken word poetry as a means of communication but also a means of social activism. After graduation spoken word poetry transformed from an activist hobby on campus to a way of survival to be honest. Most of my friends, particularly the community of poets I’d connected with in college, were all on the east coast. I was working an administrative job and did not have a way to express myself creatively except for spoken word. I started hitting up the Los Angeles open mic scene on my own and those appearances gradually developed in to features and from features I was asked to perform at various community activist events and from those events local colleges were interested in bringing me to perform and it just snowballed from there.
Where do you perform? All over. Lately it’s been mostly college and university shows but it just depends. In May, I’ll be performing at NCORE, the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education, in New Orleans and then I’ll come back home and perform with the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) for one of their Los Angeles Pride events and then I’ll be in New York again for a forum at the New School, etc. Essentially, I go where I am invited to perform for the most part. Lately I’ve been focusing on international performances as well and am really looking forward to traveling more with my poetry and helping cultivate cross cultural exchange.
How does spoken word poetry differ from poetry in the written form? For me, there is a passion in the performance that brings life to the words on the page. I enjoy being able to hear the voice that created a poem, it makes it more personal to me. I also find spoken word poetry makes the written word more accessible.
I know you have a book of poems, tell me how did you start the endeavor? Love Without Limits: The Bi-Laws of Love started out as life experiences captured in poetry. A friend of mine was starting a publication company at the time, Red Journal Publications, and approached me actually to see if I wanted to embark on this creative adventure with her. I was open to the idea of blending poems with photographs and soon after my book of Poetography, as I like to call it, was born.
What inspires you? So many things I don’t think I could list them all if I tried. Solidarity, community, LOVE, sunlight, random acts of kindness, sisterhood, Spirit, family, traveling, cross cultural communication, universal experiences, individuality, strength, laughter, music, awkward moments, and on and on…
How do you think poetry makes the world a better place? Poetry gives us a chance to share our stories, our emotions, our lives. I believe poetry helps cultivate much needed understanding.
Define poetry… Poetry is an attempt to capture the truth of a moment and/or feeling in verse.
When I write poetry I… feel connected.
I think poetry… can save the world.
Poets are… conduits.
Happy National Poetry Month Peeps