We are in The Spotlight once again and it is my pleasure to introduce you to Robert R. Gibson who is known to most of us as PassionPoet.
Tripp: PassionPoet welcome to The Spotlight! You are a Barbadian born writer and performance poet. When would you say that interest began?
PassionPoet: Writing poetry started at 14 years old after being introduced to it in English Literature class in third form (RIP Mr. Clarke - St. Michael School .... thank you!) I became a spoken word artist after being introduced to open mics in 2011 and after becoming friends with many of the artistic and poetic community here in Barbados, including Adrian Green and DJ Simmons. It was their influence that got a few of my friends and I into NIFCA that year. Writing was always in my blood. I was doing short sci-fic like stories as a young boy, got introduced to poetry at 14 and never looked back.
I don't think I actively decided to become a spoken word artist. It just sort of happened because I kept going to open mics and kept going on stage. I am passionate about everything I do; that sort of bled into my enthusiasm to be on every open mic stage. I just got better at it and more comfortable and started having a name for myself as I went out.
Tripp: I know Adrian Green has, over the past few years, been very influential in the development of performance poetry in Barbados. He is definitely emulated by many of our young poets. How has the work of our earlier writers and poets impacted on you as a writer and poet though? Kamau Brathwaite, Winston Farrell etc. I get the feeling sometimes that many of our up and coming poets don't study the work of our writers enough.
PassionPoet: Not examined exactly ... but I grew up on Aja and Farrell, I have listened to them and enjoyed them. I have also read Kamau as well, but I have not been a 'student' of their work until after becoming a 'professional' poet. I have been in workshops with Farrell and others like Nailah Imoja and I plan to do a deliberate reading of more local and regional work. Kamau's work has more of an interest for me now than it did before. Since after being in a talk about Kamau's work, hosted by the League of Extraordinary Poets (LXP), where David Commissiong was going through a sort of chronological look at his work, my interest was piqued.
My writing style has not been influenced too much by local or regional artists outside of Adrian Green and DJ Simmons – well, no … let me rephrase that. Since being a member of the LXP means that my writing is critiqued and I’m challenged to improve and rewrite pieces, I can definitely say that it has made a difference in how I write. However, I know that there is a noticeable Def Poetry influence because of Youtube. I want to do more local & regional research now though.
Tripp: How would you describe your work and why specifically stick to poetry?
PassionPoet: I know it sounds repetitive, but I'm a Passionate writer. I write about topics that bring intense emotions. Yes, as my name implies, I talk and write and perform poems about sensual and erotic themes - but that's not all there is to me. Passion encompasses anger, pain, grief, hate ... all intense emotions which I touch on in my writing. Poetry is in my blood. I eat, sleep, dream poetry. As I say in my email tagline, "I inhale words and exhale poetry." I think in verse. It's much easier for me to write a piece of free verse than it is to write an essay these days. Lol!
Tripp: I know you currently work as an IT Professional and I can only imagine how demanding a job like that can be. How do you find the time to develop your craft?
PassionPoet: I write whenever and wherever the mood strikes – even stopping in the middle of my work day to write a piece and then get back to work! I REFUSE to get an Android phone because I am too accustomed to typing poetry on the go on my Blackberry and I'm afraid I'll lose the thought that comes when I'm trying to fumble with a touch-screen phone. I also attend poetry or writing workshops whenever possible and, of course, open mics help me with my stage presence. I spend a lot of time reciting pieces online to international audiences - websites like BlogTalkRadio.com are avenues to be featured internationally and have my work reach beyond the Caribbean.
Tripp: Let's talk about your new book Erotic. Well, the title does speak for itself. Where did the idea for this book come from and what is it that you intend to communicate through this collection of poetry?
PassionPoet: In fact, the title came from a writing workshop I attended hosted by Dorothea Smartt. She spoke about Aubrey Lorde and her use of the erotic and it gripped me. Aubrey was a feminist and writer, among other things, who argued that erotic wasn't just to be confined to the sexual, but was to encompass all of life. I really gripped on to that. True, my poems are focusing on the sensual (the traditional meaning of the word) but the idea was to show LIFE in my work. I try to do that even though most of the pieces are still of a sexual nature. I knew I reached my goal when a co-worker said that my book went deeper than the sex – I was so happy someone outside my creative circle ‘got it’ that I was almost tempted to give him a free copy on the spot! (My bottom line kicked some sense into me, though….) LOL!
Tripp: My favourite piece was the poem 'True Beauty' on page 89. I noticed that you published quite a few collaborations in the book also.
PassionPoet: Wow - collabs! There are several collaborations in my book Erotic - friends like DJ Simmons, Mariposa Reina, Iris Flow, Shanika Thompson (who is also the model on the cover!), Michelle Cox and Troubles FirstLady have contributed. I have collaborated with some of my online friends on Facebook as well.
Tripp: Tell us more about your achievements as a writer and poet.
PassionPoet: Well of course, writing and publishing my first book! Having my first international feature on BlogTalk radio last year on Valentine's Day that sorta sprung me into the limelight so to speak - that interview was downloaded over 3000 times, I was told! In 2011, at my first ever NIFCA, I received one silver, two bronze and the Most Promising Poet (Adult) incentive award. I got a bronze for my next literary submission at NIFCA in 2012. I have also had poems published in local and regional anthologies – the current Winning Words anthology published by the NCF has all the poems I have entered in NIFCA, as all of them have received awards; there is also the Caribbean Writer and the online e-zine St. Somewhere Journal that have published poems as well.
Tripp: I find that most performing and creative artists that you meet in Barbados have passed through NIFCA at some point in their creative life. I have to admit I am one of those persons. Tell me about your NCF/NIFCA experience? Do you see the festival as a stepping stone? Do you think it assisted with your development as an artist?
PassionPoet: I did enjoy my NIFCA experience in 2011 - both literary and performance categories. It opened me up to a whole new realm of possibilities. As I said earlier, I entered the literal competition again in 2012, but a personal loss made me unable to compete in the performance component. I couldn't concentrate; I was in too much emotional pain.
NIFCA did put me into the national spotlight, but the fact that NIFCA had never before had spoken word as a category and they were still putting it in the performance category and judging it as such - I still don't understand what blocking is! There have been improvements with changes in NCF personnel but I have not yet been back to competition. Personally, I think it is a stepping stone, but I don't think it's the only one. If I go back now, it would just be for the joy of being on stage. I don't relish the competition aspect and being judged for something that's coming from inside me, but having my work seen by hundreds of Barbadians is my appeal.
Tripp: Fair enough. Apart from NIFCA there is really nothing else happening at a national level.
PassionPoet: As a performing artist, the lack of space to showcase my art has always been an issue - for me and all the other artists I come into contact with. Thankfully, with spaces like De Vibe open mic at the Good Life Cafe and D Arts Lime at Jagos in Paynes Bay I have been able to have consistent practice. Trying to start my own open mic, however, has been less than satisfying - we need more performing spaces, but if the issues aren't with trying to get those spots, it would be with neighbors who would argue we're too loud, or with owners who don't respect you and your craft, or want you to do all the work to promote their location while giving scant attention to you trying to promote the event.
Tripp: So what have you been doing as an artist to contribute to dealing with this problem? What is your vision for your art form?
PassionPoet: Well, I'm building my name PassionPoet into a multi-faceted empire."What will we do tonight, poet?" "Try to take over the WORLD!" I have more books in me begging to come out. I want more performing spaces and more opportunities to see Barbadian spoken word on national and international stages. We're already underway on seeing that vision realized with the recent spoken word showcase held by the Frank Collymore Hall featuring the LXP, of which I am one of the directors. It allowed spoken word to be seen on a national scale outside of NIFCA, and got some great reviews. We are already meeting to decide on our next steps.
Tripp: I have an interesting question for you. Who do you create for? Do you see something wrong with creating for purely commercial purposes or should there be some deeper philosophical meaning behind your work?
No, I see nothing wrong with creating for commercial purposes. Do I write for myself? Yes. Do I have meaning for my work? Heck yes! But I also see it as a business too. There's nothing wrong with me trying to take what I love and make a living off of it. Yes I can get into the philosophical reasons for all my poems - but I fully intend on doing things just because it might sell and I can get some profit. I reblogged and posted links on Facebook to UEAF's new estore because I am doing my part to spread the word ... cute little bears and a message about not supporting the arts with just talk. It seems like my posts have been removed from the groups I posted them in by their admins.
I got a long comment from one of the admins saying things like she does not like the idea of telling people that they should put their money where their mouth is or support the artist financially and the comment also said art should be done for the individual who is creating and for its aesthetic value. I don't want to misquote her, but as I said the posts are now removed. This caused a string of assent among other creatives.
So what should I tell Artremis Arts? What should I tell Rhaj Paul? What should I tell MYSELF? Sure I can give a reason for my hashtag comments of #LivePassionately, #IamPassion and #PassionEndorsed, but my decision to "commercialize" and put those slogans on shirts is not just a philosophical one - it is commercial, too ... the fact that I want to make panties with a Passion label is commercial - but it's still ART.
Why should I be demonized for supporting artists financially? Won't the same artists / creatives who were so quick to jump on the bandwagon (again I can't quote anyone effectively because I can't find the "offending" post or the comments anymore!) want me to buy their products? So what's different about me supporting a way for another creative to fund her festival that will benefit EVERYONE? I love cute teddy bears. They make good gifts! Or is it that the slogan of "Support the arts with more than just talk" is too close to home?
Tripp: The slogan 'Support the arts with more than just talk' was actually coined by Nala the $2 Philosopher. I only borrowed it. lol! But I think this is a topic that would make an interesting discussion and I plan to dedicate a blog post specifically to it.
PassionPoet: I write to express my joys, my hunger (I have a lot of poems about food!), my hormones.... I write as therapy and just for fun. However, I also like that what I write has appeal, so I craft my words for the maximum effect because I know I probably will put them out there.
Tripp: If you examine this particular discussion it is really not as simplistic as it seems though. It raises many questions including that of the quality of your content. This, of course, is not specific to spoken word but how do you respond to the fact that the spoken word community needs to take a critical look at itself, especially where the quality of content and performance is concerned?
PassionPoet: Yes, critical review is necessary. Personally, within the community I find that some people are too sensitive and they get upset when they are given critical review. I would never class myself with Adrian Green, he has years of experience and I am still very much developing as a writer and performance poet. People go to two performances, they get paid, and they are now the next Adrian Green. Really?
Dealing with this issue is one of the primary reasons why LXP was formed and our recent Frank Collymore Hall Showcase was a step in the right direction. It was a nationwide showcase of spoken word and not simply a performance to or peers.
However, you have to look at the other side of the coin. I have been trying for years to get people that I work with to come to our performances and they brand it as 'boring' before they even experience it. So we also have to work on developing an audience. It’s not fair that people say we are performing to our own little clique, but then you invite them to come and they give excuses. Hopefully both creatives and potential audience members will look at themselves critically and grow up. I want to see spoken word cement itself into the national psyche. I really do – so I hope that things can change and become better for all concerned.
Tripp: I see what you are saying. I strongly believe that it is something worth discussing. Well before we close would you care to tell us something most people don't know about the PassionPoet?
PassionPoet: I can cook. Not as well as Rebel Glam, but ... I can feed myself ... I can sing as well (whenever I sing at karaoke people are shocked! I tell them you don't show all your talents all at once! *grin*)
Tripp: Lol! What are your plans for the future and is there anything you would like to leave aspiring creators with?
PassionPoet: More books, a spoken word CD, spoken word videos, a LadyPassion's Intimates line of panties ... ok, I'll admit it.... I wanna have a #PassionEmpire! As I say in my poem Invocation, "...the sky is not our limitation / but our position of origin / and we can only go higher...."
Never give up. Follow your dreams. Or, in true PassionPoet style - #LivePassionately!!!!!!!
Just in case you did not have a chance to do any clicking above you can find the book Erotic in paperback at
http://tinyurl.com/pt2y5gu or get your copy on Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/np5bptm. If you are like me and you simply want to lay back and enjoy a nice night of poetry then let PassionPoet aurally entice you https://soundcloud.com/PassionPoet. Keep up with his latest musings via his blog http://poetwhispers.wordpress.com and of course you can find both PassionPoet http://www.facebook.com/PassionPoet246 and his new book Erotic http://www.facebook.com/EroticaAnthology on Facebook. See more of PassionPoet's erotic personality here http://www.mscreoleness.com/index.php/interviews/item/219-robertpassionpoetgibson-passionpoet-robertgibson ('This one is not for the faint hearted' he says) lol!
Well that brings us to the end of another exciting interview in The Spotlight. A very big thank you to PassionPoet and, of course, to you for joining us. Find us on facebook and don't forget to subscribe to our blog.
Until next time....Happy Trippin'!!!