We are excited to have the dynamic Anderson Allen on board as a performer for the 540 at The Yards Launch Party. Check out our interview with Anderson where he shares his inspiration as a spoken word poet, activist, and creator of color.
Join us Sunday February 3 // 4-6 PM at The Yards Collective
About Anderson Allen
Anderson began his journey as a writer when he discovered Roc Bottom Slam Team, Rochester’s only adult poetry slam team from January 2014 – August 2017, where he served as an artist, secretary, and Creative Director. Anderson blends theatre, wordplay, song, and storytelling to convey the pain, beauty, joy, and spirit he finds in being a creator. He uses his craft as a tool to build community and enrich the lives of young people so they are encouraged to use their art as a form of resistance and radical self-love.
When did you begin your career as a spoken word poet?
AA: My career started as a spoken word poet on January, 11 2014. I was invited to an open mic being hosted by the former Roc Bottom Slam Team. I went to Tajze’s Wine & Bar to listen that night. It was a great vibe and after every artist got up, I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue seriously. I felt home.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
AA: My poetry is inspired by a deep desire to understand the world within me and around me. I am driven to bring forth the most authentic truth I witness or experience in both of these spaces. Some of my work is ekphrasis driven, meaning I draw inspiration from other art forms and use poetry as a way to interpret what I experience whether I’m peering into a painting, watching a movie, reading, or listening to the stories that are constantly being told around or, to me. Inspiration is a constant in our lives whether we’re conscious or present for it’s occurrence. I am inspired to draw people’s attention to that.
What makes you want to be poet?
AA: I remember how long it took me to actually pursue what I truly love and I feel a certain duty to ensure I push people towards their passion by living my through my own. I gave into the societal standard about living a 9-5 life working for the man, going to college, blah, blah, blah but I never truly bought into it because it didn’t feel like the life I imagined or wanted. Writing has always been part of my life and it was something I didn’t entertain when I was younger because I didn’t want to upset my dad. Being on stage was always my Plan A and writing became the gateway for that to happen. I love words, but I love finessing language far more.
For you how does performing and writing poetry relate to wellness?
AA: Joy is my place of residence, my home. When I am going through something stressful or I become grief stricken, I think about where I want to be and I make a conscious effort to write myself into that space no matter how ugly process may be. I have to analyze the problem in a way that draws me into an objective standpoint. Writing poetry is a very internal process for me. Performing lends itself to that process because I have to consciously make decisions that show the journey I underwent to get back home. I want to share that with others so they know they aren’t alone.
How do you stay healthy as a creative?
AA: Breathe. Be. Repeat. Turn up!!
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of your career as a spoken word poet?
AA: This will be the first year I’ve actually started doing the work to be become a full time artist. The challenge is maintaining a hardcore commitment to that and staying on top of everything I’m involved in. It ain’t easy, but I’m here for it!
When you aren’t writing poetry or performing what keeps you healthy?
AA: If I had to sum it up in one word: Solitude.
What is it that inspires you to keep going as a performer?
AA: For me, what I do isn’t performance. I feel intensely and often feelings that aren’t my own. I don’t express those internalized emotions, but when I’m on stage, I feel like all of me can be seen in a way that may be overlooked if you don’t know me outside of one interaction or impression you have with me. I always feel like I’m up there to articulate what others may not have words for. When I’m on stage, I feel like I’m undressing myself and that nakedness is a liberation I never grow tired of. It’s insatiable.
What are you working on now?
AA: I’m currently writing a one man show that I hope to have completed by the end the year!
What has been your best experience so far as a performer?
AA: Competing in the 2017 National Poetry Slam with slam poets from all over the world. It’s always refreshing to listen to others work, meet new people, share your work and I guess the highlight of it all was meeting Buddy Wakefield!!!!
What has been your biggest challenge as a performer?
AA: Blending poetry and theatre in a way that allows me to draw the bridge between both mediums in a dynamic and eloquent way.
Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
AA: It’s a challenge I know will always present itself to me, but that’s what motivates me to keep doing the work!
What advice do you have for others interested in pursuing spoken word poetry?
AA: Write for you. You’re writing for a much larger audience you’re not even aware of yet and it isn’t aware of you (that should excite you). You don’t have to know your voice right away, but you always have to be working towards that—by that, I mean you. Opinion and critique are two different things and you should value both, but grow to discern when they serve what you’re striving to do as an artist. Journal your thoughts and feelings and find the patterns that appear within them. “Writer’s block” isn’t a thing! It’s a great place to refine or rediscover your craft. Live your life and the writing will come. Read things that challenge your beliefs or make you question something you hadn’t considered.
Please list any contact info you’d like to include (blog, twitter, email, FB, etc):
Photo credit: (cover) Rae Da