Ladies and gentlepeople, I present you the winner of last month's NAACP Youth Poetry Slam, Ceez Liive.
I think Ceez is terrific, tens across the board. The folks at the Examiner disagree. They refer to the above performance as "spewing profanity and hatred." And how dare you curse and be angry about environmental devastation, you...young person!
Listen, young people: This is what haters are good for: Letting you know that you're doing something right. Look at who these people are, and what they believe -- they're global warming deniers, they love Bush, they hate Obama. Do you disagree with them? Then they hate you. Because that's their job: Haters hate. There are people like this all over the place (some of them right here on this blog, deep in the longest comment threads ever). These people assign themselves to you to try to shut you up. And that's how you can tell you're saying something that desperately needs to be said.
I'm not saying that indiscriminately pissing people off means you're fucking awesome -- GOD NO. Only the worst reality TV sociopaths subscribe to that philosophy. But being called out for being a passionate advocate for our oceans is a good thing. One thing I've learned over these almost twenty years of getting bad reviews along with good ones: As long as they spell your name right, baby, that's all that counts. Let 'em speak your name all they want. It only gives you more power.
I interview Ceez shortly before the article came out, but even if it hadn't, I'd feel that we've given it enough airtime by now, don't you think?
How old were you when you started writing?
I was really young when I started writing. My mom tried to build four-year-old geniuses so I wrote a children's book in kindergarten called New York, New York. It won at Author's Night. I picked up a serious passion for writing around the fifth grade, writing short stories and songs.
When did you decide to become a poet?
In eighth Grade I met a teacher named Ms. Lief. She made me erase the stigmas that my neighborhood put on poetry (it's for losers, only rhymes that were excepted were on beats). When I thought it was all Robert Frost and Shakespeare, she showed me Sonia Sanchez and Tupac. This fueled me into reading more and more and writing more and more poems. I only read the ones that rhymed to my friends though. I'd tell them I was looking for a beat.
How did you discover slam poetry, and what were your first few performances like?
My aunt dragged me to a college fair, the Black College Expo to be exact, and we saw a truck advertising the Knicks poetry slam. A lady told me I could win 10,000 dollars for a poem and I became an instant fan of slam. Mannnnnnnn listen, I thought i was the most amazing thing to set foot on this planet at my first slam. In the workshop I was put in I was the best. Had me fooled. I went to semi's and saw people speaking things I thought i could never think of! I didn't get to the finals that year for the Knicks slam. Urban Word NYC's slam preliminaries were two weeks later. I got through that, nervous for semi's due to the prior mentioned. When I hit that stage.Ii blacked out. By the end of the night, I made it to finals. When the night came i was nerrrvous. to make matters worst i got picked to go first. i didnt make the team the night. one year later i came back. won 2nd at knicks and was on of six 2009 Urban Word Grand Slam Champion.
Who do you like to listen to/watch/read?
Everything. I never cut anyone out before I get to know them and I think of art the same way. I take everything in so I can produce something different. At this current moment though my favorite poets are Rachael McKibbens, Jeanann Verlee, Buddy Wakefield and Andrea Gibson. My favorite artists at this moment are Kanye West, Drake, Jasmine Sullivan and Kings of Leon.
Are you part of a community of poets?
I am a part of several poetic communities. Urban Word NYC caters to teen writers in the tri state area. I'm part of Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement in Philly and Urban Mountain Voices in the Poconos. It keeps me on top of my work to see so many people I care about excelling at what I love. It's also the drastic change in company I needed in order to start another chapter of my life. The story must go on, right?
So what's next for Ceez?
I am currently looking to book more colleges and venues. I have a non profit called WordPlay: Hip Hop and Poetry and i would love to put out a book. If anyone would like to get in contact with me, they could do so at Ceezliive@gmail.com