A blog series created by Darius Parker profiling members of the Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble.
The Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble (KLPE) has been a pillar of Uptown and Chicago for twenty years. Since her inception, the Kuumba Lynx founders and the original KLPE members have always utilized one key element in the development of their creative works, courageous voice. By history, the Lynx, a component of the organization’s name, is a member of the cat family, it is known to be small in size but hosts a mighty roar.
Kuumba Lynx has participated in Chicago’s -wide slam poetry competition, Louder than a Bomb for sixteen years, awarded five 1st place titles, making them the most decorated slam poetry team in the competition’s history thus far.
With a new year and new poetry festival approaching, members of the 2017 Slam Team sat down with alumni Darius Parker. They navigated their individual writing process’, shared some of their favorite KL writing and performance pedagogy, and discussed how they are preparing for to slam this spring. This series of #ViewsFromTheLynx will profile the 2017 slam poetry team in its entirety.
First up on the list is Sammy O., a Senior From Phoenix Military Academy. Sammy is no stranger to Slam Poetry nor Chicago’s very own Louder Than A Bomb poetry competition.
DP: Describe to me your writing process
Sammy: The way I usually come about writing a poem is usually through some sort of inspiration, it usually comes from some sort of outlet that inspires me to write my pieces. It literally starts with me seeing something happen before my eyes and me reflecting on what I saw the next day and trying to make something much bigger from it. Or reading a poem that inspires me to write a piece.
DP: Who and/or What inspires you? What type of poems or actions?
Sammy: They way they tell a story is what really inspires me. I feel like anybody can be very creative with words. One of my biggest inspirations is Danez Smith, his stories are different and the subjects he touches are rarely touched by anybody and the way he does it is unique as well. He’s very explicit and is care free and can care less what anybody thinks about it. I feel like he scarred me for the rest of my life because I was never open to speaking about sexuality. I remember thinking like wow this poet is really brave and its made me think hmm, why am I not that brave? It took me out of the self denial I had within myself. I had a denial in my sexuality and in my gender and I engulfed myself in hyper masculinity in attempts to hide it. Ever since I started listening to his poems, my poems haven’t started to sound like his but everything else has changed, Im more open about who I am. I feel like anybody who is able to go inside someone’s unconscious and dig up what that person is hiding is a pretty good poet/writer and his poetry does more than inspire me to write better it inspires me to change for the better, for myself. He’s inspired me to be a Gender Abolitionist and everyday I attempt to try new things.
DP: How would you describe yourself as a poet and performer? Who is Sammy the Poet?
Sammy: I feel like in the past year I’ve taken on this very humble persona Almost too humble. Whereas I haven’t given myself enough credit as a poet and performer and because of that I feel like I may have missed out on a lot of opportunities by being too humble. I see myself as this steamed bubble on a pot that could burst really quickly but is continuing to grow and develop. I also feel like Ive developed an ego to hide that I really don’t know who I am as a performer. I see myself as this wild card, I don’t think I would describe myself as anything.
DP: What goes on in your head when you’re about to spit when its just you and the mic and the audience?
Sammy: When I’m about to spit, I treat that moment as if its my last few seconds on Earth. Because the liberty I’m allowed on the stage is almost unrealistic that I trick myself into believing if this is actually happening right now, like is this real? Sometimes I walk up on stage and feel like I’m in a different world. The ability to walk up to a microphone and say a line and have everybody change their mind-set is incredible and I feel like that’s a gift from God. One time I performed a poem about the issues I was dealing with in school and after it a group of men walked up to me sobbing telling me they needed that in their life because they had went through what I did. To see a poem break down the hyper masculinity of men, that’s definitely one of my biggest accomplishments as a gender aboilitionist the ability to make men cry. I don’t really care about the glory behind being a poet but what really interests me is being that person to revolutionize something and influence others to do the same thing I’m doing especially in my community since we lack youth involved in the arts.
DP: What would you say to any up and coming youth poets who are interested in joining Kuumba Lynx or the slam team?
Sammy: You’re reason for joining Kuumba Lynx shouldn’t be to compete in Louder Than A Bomb but more so join to be a part of the activist and performance sides of Kuumba Lynx and to take advantage of everything the organization has to offer and to be as authentic as possible. Be real. Also acknowledge the fact that art cannot be created because It can only be recreated.
Moving words from such a young soul, be sure to check the blog next week for newcomer Darius Williams and his #ViewsFromTheLynx