Interview with Ed Mabrey

With just four days away, Phoenix, Arizona will be hosting the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam and Spit Journal just had to share a few words with the three-time defending champion Ed Mabrey.

SPIT JOURNAL: We’re all curious, how did you find your way into the realm of performance poetry?

ED MABREY: My first poetry experience was in 2000 at an open mic. I went to get over a breakup and figured poetry was free therapy with strangers. I thought I would read some bad breakup poetry and move on. Ha. Once that was out of my system I still had the urge to share, write, and perform.


SJ: You are attending the Individual World Poetry Slam to defend your three-time champion title, what are your expectations and goals? Is there a particular poet/s you are excited to watch perform?

MABREY:  My expectations are to share quality material in a quality manner. Another expectation I have is to use poetry as way to shed light on some things I feel need to be discussed in this country. I do have some poets that I consider peers or are poets I get excited to hear, but there are so many that I can’t name them here. I know I would run out of space and time and inevitably forget or leave someone off the list by accident.

SJ: As a poet you have an ability to create unforgettable characters within your work. One particular poem that you perform starts off with the voice of a four year old child and within the span of three minutes, this character grows up in harsh environments, voice matures, and life becomes a struggle. Can you tell us how this poem came about? 

MABREY: The poem is called “Q&A” and covers the life of an individual from age 4-40. A good portion of my poems come from music or from dreams. This one is no different. The Four Year Old in the poem began to pop up in my dreams and would alter them, showing me his life. Then a certain I enjoy was being played one time and everything just clicked. There was some editing involved of course, but to be honest, this poem came to me almost fully formed. The difficult part was getting out of the way of the poem and realizing that each individual needed to share their part of the story, not me.

SJ: In another poem, you clearly state that Katy Perry should be the next President of the United States. How did you come across such an epiphany? And do you still think she should be President? Any new candidates? 

MABREY: LOL. I had a crush on Katy Perry in a true fanboy type of way. I watched the video for her song Fireworks and something about it really moved me. I’m older now and don’t watch a lot of videos but that one got to me. So I bought the song. Then a friend of mine said, “If you like her so much, write a poem about her.” I took it as a challenge and the rest is history. I have another one I am working on but can’t share who is running for office just yet.

SJ: The themes to your poems are unique and creative. What do you read or watch for new original ideas? What is your writing process like? And how often do you create a poem that never sees the light of day?

MABREY: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. I of course read poetry. Right now I am reading a great anthology of Black Poetry. I watch cartoons and anime at least twice a week. I think cartoons tell us a lot but also keep us young. In terms of music, I intentionally stay behind the times. And if I find something I like I will listen to the same song or album for days or weeks before switching to someone/something else. It’s a absorption thing. My writing process (aside from the discipline and the craft) is to write what I am moved to write. I get spoken through more often than spoken to. I have a good portion of poems that have never been shared, but that might change.

SJ: Can you maybe share a new poem, a short poem, an original scribble on paper that hasn’t been seen yet? We’d love to get a snippet of Ed Mabrey’s current train of thought.

MABREY: * Sure. I will type one right now so that’s as fresh as I can get. Let’s see:
Your hands are the only promise
I would never break
Hold me till my brackets burst
And my questions marks all
uncurve- I want my hands to
feel like a yes, a right now,
a forever, an exclamation.

SJ: Finally, can you give the Spit Journal viewers a potential writing prompt they can work on to get the creative juices flowing?

MABREY: Sure and thank you. You’re in a room. There’s a white rabbit in a cage. There’s a magicians cape on the floor. There may or may not be blood on the magicians wand, which is on the floor. In a water tank is his assistant. She is drowning. Stuck in the tanks glass, is an axe. The water is leaking from a crack, slowly. Write a poem as the axe.


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Ed Mabrey’s Full Bio:

Ed Mabrey is the three-time Individual World Poetry Slam champion. Ed is the first person of color to win the title and continues to be a trailblazer, consistently raising the bar and setting new and ambitious standards for this performance art form.

Ed can be seen on Season 3 of Verses and Flow, brought to you by Lexus, it airs on TV ONE. Ed also is a featured performer on All Def Digital, brought to you by HBO Online.

Some of his other achievements are: 2012 Poetry Slam Artist of the Year (National Poetry Awards), Emmy nominated actor, National Best Selling poetry anthology contributor (“Spoken Word Revolution Redux/Sourcebooks”). He has served as Host/Master of Ceremony for over 200 events in the past 4 years and over 600 events in the past 8 years. During the course of his career, he has toured internationally and has conducted performances and workshops at over 70 colleges and universities.





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