Who: Michael Quess Moore aka A Scribe Called Quess
Artists chosen location for interview: Norman Mayer Library, around the back in a small cut-out of the building.
Q: What do you place or what would you place in your windowsills?
MQM: I just got my first house last October, and the windowsills have not become a priority. Although, I do have plants in front of the windows.
Growing up in New York, I remember windowsills being a thing. Down here, maybe I missed that part of the culture, but they don’t seem to be a big deal. Maybe you put a plant in there or something. I guess I could put a succulent or a basil plant up in there.
In a big city, like growing up in a brownstone, you don’t have a front door or a yard to show off to the world, so your windowsill is how you represent. In middle-class New York, if you don’t have a tag that you can leave on a wall somewhere for graffiti, your windowsill becomes your mark on the planet. I remember sitting in my windowsill as a kid, and I would sit there and talk on the phone so I could feel grown-up like my mom. I’d sit there when I felt like I had important things to talk about. Like Ninja Turtles.
But with windowsills, there’s no such thing here. Here, I’ve got a front lawn.
Q: What’s it like to be part of a poetry community?
MQM: It’s vital. There are a lot of twists and turns, and you get to know people a lot quicker than you do other times because of the nature of what we are putting out. You open yourself up.
Imagine the spill or blood-letting that we voluntarily do on stage. We know the stories behind those stories, depending on how close you get to that poet. You find that without that communication and community, the poetry might have never happened. The relationship that builds toward the courage of you telling that story and toward you fortifying that story and saying it in front of a large group of people is vital.
I’ve seen poets go from telling me ‘this thing happened to me today’ in a car, and it turns into a poem. The next day it goes viral, and there are thousands of people that are hearing that poem. I know full well that the black sheep and weirdos of any space really need to find each other, so we can help each other bring what we have to say to the public.
It’s a tough balance, too, because if you know someone really well, familiarity can breed contempt. Other times, though, you find someone that is for life, and you feel like you get bound to their story, and they get bound to yours. No matter how much time passes, you can get back together and meet right there again.
Q: When do you most often find that you want a paper product?
MQM: Not often nowadays. When you say ‘paper product,’ I’m thinking about the bag that you put fast food in, but I don’t do so much of that anymore.
And, I don’t really write on paper. I have dozens of notebooks that I have intentions for, but I come back to them later and find that I’ve gone halfway with the story, the theme, or the relationship that I started in those notebooks. I have books with pages that get scripted on, and if it makes it out of there, it becomes something.
Q: What makes your blood just go?
MQM: Panels are just as exciting as performance for me because I get to have a really honest conversation. It feels so good when it can all just come out. I love the 3 minutes and 10 seconds when I’m performing in front of a crowd, but when the talking starts–the response I get, the vibes I get, the feels I get, those become dialogical. When I can feel the room feeling me, and I’m being myself–which could be awkward, goofy, angry, joyous all in 10 seconds–that makes my blood move.
[At this point we stopped to talk about the dancing he was doing while answering this question].
My kids say that to me all the time: ‘You be dancing while you’re teaching.’ I’m real wavy over here. And some of my best years and days of teaching also get my blood to move. I’m a nerd for ideas and emotions and juicy energy and thoughts. If I can bring something to a 9th, 8th, or 3rd grader that no one ever thought to talk to me about, I get that blood going and those goosebumps.
And when they own it, and it becomes theirs, and they come back from reading the end of Siddhartha and want to scream OM in the air, that’s when you feel like you’re winning.
Q: How would you describe identity?
MQM: Have you ever seen the movie A Scanner Darkly? Philip K. Dick wrote this sci-fi novel that they made into a film with a Waking Life kind of feel to it. In the movie, a guy goes undercover as a narc agent, but he’s also hanging out with these hippies that do drugs, and they become friends. When he goes into meetings, they have this futuristic cloak that changes faces as he talks, so you can never keep up with who he is.
That’s similar to identity. I see identity as really malleable. It’s something that can switch form based on your evolution.
I think we get really rooted in our identities. We have a mom and a dad who had a mom and a dad, and all those family trees go back to slavery or colonization or something that you held sacred or maybe it is a trauma that you literally held in your body. That stuff is important because you can’t form real identity without it–whatever ‘real’ is; although it is a really real thing when it lives in your genes–so you have to go back to your family and where you come from. At the same time, you have to have an open door to your ability to evolve. A lot of stuff that gets passed down can be trauma and toxic, and it doesn’t belong in our bodies.
You can look at and love what your great-great-grandfather ate, but he might have died at 60 something from hypertension, so you might want to consider a different diet. Others look back and say that’s my great-great granddaddy’s flag and he fought in this and that, and yet, he’s really toxic, and he took some of that home and put that on you. He might have beat your mom or grandma because of that hypermasculinity, so do you really want to go out like that as well?
So identity means knowing where you come from and also knowing how to grow out of it.
To learn more about Michael Quess Moore, aka A Scribe Called Quess, as well as his work, you can check out his website as well as follow him on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram. He will also be performing on Wednesday, September 20 for “RAW New Orleans presents FIXATE. He will also be doing a talk-back with Clint Smith at the New Orleans Public Library on his birthday on September 28 as well as filming for Golden Mic on Congo TV on September 29th at the Ellis Marsalis Center. Be on the lookout for A Scribe Called Quess at the Fringe Fest November 15-19 for his first one-man show.