HCM: Which venue was your favorite?
JM: My favorite venue hands down was Delta After Dark 2012 with Delta Sigma Theta and Phi Theta Pi. This was the first venue where I had complete control over the lighting of the performance, the entrance, the microphones, etc. It was the largest venue I’ve ever performed at (Jesse Hall holds over 1,200 people), and I received a great amount of positive feedback from that performance. It was humbling. It was fun. It was a reminder of why I enjoy doing spoken word poetry to convey a message to an audience. Poetry is one of the few channels that someone can use to speak a message to a crowd in less than three minutes, and that set was a reminder of this concept.
HCM: Where do you get inspiration for your poetry?
JM: Inspiration comes from any and everywhere. Sometimes my inspiration comes from everyday life, things that I see people say or do, or how I’m feeling at a given moment. There have been plenty of times when I will wake up in the morning with two lines or a stanza of poetry in my head, and I won’t be at peace until that piece is on paper. Sometimes God will put something on my heart, and I just have the desire to get it out and written down.
HCM:Who are some artists you admire and why?
JM: Anyone who was an artist on Def Poetry Jam during its six seasons. That show was the first look at spoken word to the masses in the United States, and for me as an aspiring poet, it was my first example of a form of poetry on something besides an “AB AB” format on paper. Artists like Shihan, Mayda De Valle, Thea Monyee – artists whose style I would try to emulate before finding my own way of writing. As I’ve gotten older and more in-tune with poetry on a national scale and who is writing what, I have created a great deal of respect for the WU-SLam team at Washington University in St. Louis and everyone who has come out of that team since its inception. Having the opportunity to sit in the same writing workshops as some of those writers is nothing short of amazing. Any of them could easily publish a book or create a CD that sells on a national scale.
HCM: You recently performed your spoken word poetry for HBO and the CW. Describe that experience.
JM: That experience was a euphoric one. Everything happened really fast. I remember getting a phone call on a Monday about an audition taking place in St. Louis that Friday. I knew it was for a spot on national television, so I spent the week picking poems that I wanted to perform. The actual auditions themselves took place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. I showed up at 9 a.m., was the sixth out of 46 to audition, and was there until 5 p.m. when the network announced the winners who would be selected to be on national television. At first I was selected to be aired for the CW’s 30-minute pilot episode for their new series and had no clue that I would also be on HBO. The next day, I stood in the Mad Art Building in Soulard at 10 a.m., and we started recording around 3 p.m., and finished around 5 p.m., which was when I found out I’d also be performing again in front of a live audience for the HBO taping in two hours. Like I said, it moved fast. Overall, it was a humbling experience while also a confirmation for me that my writing was actually good. As a perfectionist, I never really know if my poems are good enough until I get third and fourth opinions on it. It was humbling to know that the network trusted me to be on not just one but two national networks. Out of the nine people selected, I was the only one who was asked to be on both shows. As I was also the only college student, I was excited, ready to jump up and over a table, do a back flip and just ready to perform. So the best word I can come up with to describe that experience is euphoric.
HCM: When will your performance air?
JM: As of right now, both shows are looking to air in the fall of 2012 after wrapping up their nationwide tour.
HCM: Do you think this TV appearance will lead to more opportunities for you?
JM: The ultimate goal is to spread my message and my poetry to the masses or even other opportunities with other companies should those opportunities arise. But for now, the goal is to allow this appearance to open more doors and opportunities for nationwide appearances and follow whatever God tells me to do along the way. I’ll let you know what He says whenever He makes it clear to me.
HCM: What's next in your poetry career? What are you currently working on?
JM: I just finished my poetry CD simply titled Justin McCain Poetry. It was an impromptu project that I created for a mentor of mine who needed audio recordings of my writing for other purposes. It has 13 tracks of poetry written in the past 12 months, and I’m currently editing it and deciding if I’d like to release it online, although I’m pretty sure I’ll be selling it at poetry venues from now on. I’m also working on getting a fully functional website up and running by the summertime. On top of that, I’m still working on new poems, new ideas and concepts for my family business and being a college student chasing a degree. We’ll see where the wind blows me in the new few years, but do look out for me. Whatever it is I end up doing, I promise it will be big.
To check out Justin’s poetry, visit his blog, Twitter, Facebookor YouTube blog.
Photo Credit: Marc Mayes