BY: TONY BOWERS
The Habitual Wordsmith T.J. Love knows how to create words that evoke real emotion. I consider this to be a superpower. This amazing ability is what the world has always needed, so I was excited to spend time chopping it up with my literary brother. I have been a fan of T.J’s even before his provocative poetry collection (Speaking in Tongues: Love in Five Languages from Vital Narrative Press). From his bombastic Sound Cloud recordings to his impromptu Facebook musings, this brother knows how to move the needle.
TB: How long have you been writing and performing poetry?
TJ: I've been writing pretty much all my life but started performing when I was 17.
TB: So you got years in the game. I started writing back when I was 9. My first love was Langston Hughes. He inspired me to write. Who was your first love of poetry?
TJ: Word, Langston was there. Paul Laurence Dunbar, too. If I had to pick a first love though, man... as a kid, probably Maya Angelou. She was always so evocative and had such depth in simple lines. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was such an intimate read and gave so much insight into her life, it deepened my appreciation for her and her work. As I got older, I definitely dug Ainsley Burrows as my first spoken word love.
TB: We need that inspiration to guide us. Who are your current poetry/literary crushes?
TJ: I've really been digging on Lin-Manuel Miranda. He wrote Hamilton and the songs from Moana, but he's so damn lyrical and his wordplay is heads and shoulders beyond anything I've ever seen before. Like I'm obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack, how effortlessly he spins these lyrical tales through hip-hop and musical theatre. It's so dope. Warsan Shire is another one. I'm trying to familiarize myself with her work more. She echoes of that simplistic beauty I found in Maya all those years ago.
TB: That's interesting your connection to Miranda and musicals - are there any non-literary art forms that inspire you? Abstract art does it for me.
TJ: I love abstract art. I've always been a fan of art that doesn't have a set particular message, open interpretation stuff. I usually try to say something in my work, yet I want my readers/listeners to extrapolate from it what they will and it always inspires me to have conversations of their reasoning and rationale. I also dig still life photography. Like I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge a million times, but the perfectly captured image of it will get me emotional because it reminds me of home.
TB: Amen. Spoken like a true artist. What's your next challenge?
TJ: Right now I'm in a rotation of hosts for an open mic session out here in Phoenix called Cultiv8n Culture and that's been really dope, something new and exciting. I was just on a radio show out here called 'Off The Cuff' on RadioSupa.com where I spoke about Speaking In Tongues and my upbringing in life and in poetry. I also was just featured on Indiana hip-hop artist Con Rome's mixtape. Individually, my next project is to finish my ninth spoken word album. I have the pieces written, I just have to record them. Outside of that, just visualizing my next book. But that won't be till next year and with the Womens' Initiative coming up in 2019, I've got a little time.
TB: Wow. You got a full plate. That's what's up. Last question.... which do you prefer spoken or written poetry and why?
TJ: Damn, that's a great question. I gotta take both honestly. I know, I suck for that but they are both equally important to me. Some people are audio intensive. Some are visual. One without the other is deprivation. Spoken word has an attraction because delivery and cadence are fifty percent of the entertainment value, while written poetry has to have a certain visual aesthetic, whether in word choice or placement or structure, in order to be universally appealing. There are certain niches for both so they are both powerful in their own rights.
TB: No, that's great. Both is a great answer. Great break down of the why. I appreciate your time. Great and thoughtful answers. Thanks Brother. Keep slanging them words.
TJ: No doubt man thanks for the time. Will do, most def.