His Name Is Romero and Interview
July, 2014, By Darren Cifarelli
David Romero is a poet, activist, charity worker, teacher and a real human being who reminded me that the little things we do matter.
Yeah, he’s a poet. Yeah, he’s an activist. Yeah, he teaches a workshop called Marginalized Voices as a part of his job as a poet. In the workshop, co-facilitated by poets Matt Sedillo and Yazmin Monet Watkins, participants learn about instances of police brutality; then write poems in the voice of the victims: “Last Words: Giving Victims a Voice.” Brilliant. In his words, “Speaking to issues including race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration, social justice, human rights, and human love, Marginalized Voices gives power to the silenced and raises awareness in the hearts and minds of the audience from the people’s perspective.”
We should all be so giving; we should all find an aspect of our jobs that enables us to teach social justice and empathy: to do something more than what our job description says we do. We live in an era where the arts, physical education, and social justice are not a part of the public school curriculum--all of this while we lament the obesity epidemic and the lack of empathy that we feel for the rest of the world, which as a nation we exploit at best and destroy at worst.
Maybe one of the reasons for the de-funding and marginalization and loss of funding for the arts, poetry, literature, and other disciplines which teach notions of social justice and exploit issues of social injustice are funded and are marginalized because of the revolutionary and empathetic qualities that they embody.
Here is one man who has refused to be marginalized, and has taken it upon himself to teach what public schools exclude. We live in an era in which our ability to think critically and question the master narrative that controls our thinking about social issues, history, current events, foreign policy, and what education should be, is silenced.
It is not his burden to bear, but David Romero has taken it upon himself to fill in the gap of objective, progressive, forward-thinking critical thinking that is so lacking in our society today.
Oh and did I mention? He’s a great poet. Please read the online interview (will be posted on Thursday.) Read what he says about China, commonly characterized as America’s enemy. Read about the workshop curriculum that he developed which teaches participants empathy, a trait grotesquely lacking in our education system and in society. This is genius; his life and work are exemplary: live them; love them.
Darren Cifarelli: First and foremost, what's going on with your hair? Is that a punk thing or what?
David A. Romero: In touring around the country performing spoken word and screaming into the mic up on stage in front of crowds, sometimes I feel like a rock star. I figured it would be cool to look the part.
So, tell me about your writing. How did you get started?
Everyone is made to write poems throughout their school years (at least, I hope they are), but I kept my poems and would re-read them from time to time. However, I didn’t start writing poems outside of school until college. In college, I discovered underground hip hop and spoken word. It was the exposure to free verse poetry about contemporary topics that truly opened up my writing and motivated me to become a poet.
What is your process like?
Most of the time I begin with a concept: this is usually the pairing of a theme with a motif. From that motif I expand, and create a world of motifs for that theme to mesh with. This is where various metaphors take shape. That’s the general framework. However, sometimes the key to really getting going is a few hot lines or the right combination of words. That’s the harder part. That’s what gets me excited for what I’m writing about. That’s where the intellectual construction of the poem has to meet with something more emotional and more interested in the rhythm of the words than in their overall structure. For a great spoken word poem, structure and rhythm must coexist; most of the time with rhythm given an edge.
Who are some of your favorite poets and influences? Did you ever read Alurista? He was the first poet who made me want to write and made me realize that poetry and revolution go together so well.
The influences I draw from for my poetry are very eclectic: everything from slam legend Saul Williams to Edgar Allan Poe, rapper Immortal Technique to comedian Pablo Francisco, Karl Marx to Kurt Vonnegut. This odd mix is what I bring to my work. I am unfamiliar with Alurista. It was underground hip hop that revealed to me just how revolutionary poetry could be. And lest I forget, my best friend and comrade, fellow professional poet Matt Sedillo, has also become one of my greatest influences. He is often the first reader and editor of my work.
I see that you were the second person to have a poetry video on Russell Simmons's YouTube channel All Def Digital. Congratulations! What encouraged you to present your work in a video format?
Thanks! There are really two ways to earn a living as a poet: one, is to become a literary figure and have one’s work published and widely sold, the other, is to pursue the life of a spoken word artist; traveling and performing across the country. The YouTube generation searches for and finds spoken word artists on YouTube. So, it is necessary to produce videos to catch the attention of these folks and therefore, get bookings at colleges and universities.
What is working in video like as a poet? I mean, do you write with the video's visuals in mind, or do you just write a poem and then figure out how to best represent or enhance it through the use of visual media?
Working in video is great. Before I started calling myself a poet, I had my eyes set on being a screenwriter or a comic book writer, and this has had a strong effect on how I approach poetry. As I write, I have images in mind and try to think of ways of connecting them. I recognize these means as elements of film language: collision montage, cross-cutting, speed up, slow motion, still frame, dissolve, etc. So, the translation from paper to film is very organic. That being said, this process of adapting poems has had a further effect on my writing: not only will I construct my poems using film language, I have begun to consider the feasibility of creating the images I construct for videos (location, scale of production, time to film, etc.). When this happens, not only am I a poet writing as a writer/director, but also, potentially, as a producer.