By Kim Lyle
Nine of Baton Rouge’s most talented spoken word poets performed for a standing room only crowd last Wednesday with four emerging after a series of judged rounds, to proudly represent our city at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California this summer.
Traditionally, the points are not the point, the poetry is the point. However, Rodrick Minor effortlessly delivered both. After earning the top spot amongst his peers, he generously spoke about his process and where he draws his inspiration.
“A lot of times you pull from your personal narrative, your own experience”, said Minor. “It’s like dealing with visual art, there are certain messages that you would like to convey to the world. And you use that canvas and whatever type of media you’re using at that time to do so. It’s the same with poetry.”
Almost every spoken word poem is rooted in a grain of truth whether in the form of an actual event, a feeling, or an important issue. Minor manages to seamlessly weave all three into his work.
“I’ve recently been pulling a lot from issues with racial undertones within society, and how many times they’re downplayed within the media. Specifically with the case of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the racial profiling, police brutality, and racism involved” said Minor. “A lot of that lives deep within the South, and that’s something I endured when I was being brought up in Mississippi.”
Minor is a versatile voice, who also draws from the people he has spent the majority of his life around – his family.
“I believe that, no matter who you are, your family is going to be the main source that you pull from,” said Minor.
But, not all of Minor’s poetry is meant to shake audiences into consciousness. Sometimes he wants to exchange finger snaps for a little laughter as seen in his final poem for the evening centered on an encounter with a Florida Hampton Inn that left grits out of their continental breakfast spread
“I think a lot of the time when you go into poetry you have the assumption that this is going to be real intense,” said Minor. “There is such thing as a funny poem.”
Humor aside, Minor notes that revealing some of the most personal parts of who you are to a group of strangers can be quite an intimidating feat.
“It’s a scary place because sometimes you become vulnerable” said Minor.
The main goal of any spoken word artist remains tied to the audience, having them feel what the poets are feeling.
“The most challenging thing is trying to make sure you can connect with people because it’s more than just memorizing the words. You can’t really look at a hand manual for that,” said Minor. “You just have to say, I’m going to give all of myself to these people tonight.”