Sistah Girls, you know we love us some poetry over here. In celebration of National Poetry Month, we got the chance to speak with author and poet Keith Nweze.
Newze is the author of several published books of Poetry; Struggle, The Black Collection Vol 1, Soul Exchange, Raw Thoughtz of a Wise Dumb Man, and he currently has two novels set to be released in 2023, With Love: Chronicles of a Respectful Breakup and InnerHerCityBlues.
If I had to describe Newze’s writing I would say it’s thought-provoking, at times sexy, and without a doubt powerful. So I was delighted to have a chance to sit down with Keith the New Jersey native and learn more about his work.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
SGBC: What inspired you to start writing poetry? And what poet, poem, or piece of writing inspired you to write your first poem?
Keith Nweze: I matured and experienced life to a point where I felt like I had something meaningful to say and contribute to the struggles of African American People.
I evolved from a non-reader to an advent reader and personally felt the mental power of nurturing one’s brain through reading and objectively studying the conditions of African Americans in America. After I founded Raw Thoughtz LLC in 2010. I realized it had the potential to be a foundation for my written words and creative ventures but it can also be a supportive tool for the urban community.
The mission of Raw Thoughtz LLC and everything produced under the umbrella is to educate young people and adults alike on self-awareness, artistic expression, and conflict-defusing communication skills.
SGBC: Who was the first person you shared your poetry with and who was the first person to tell you that your poetry was good?
Keith Nweze: Anna Nunez saved my life. Anna was the first person I shared my poetry with before I even knew I was equipped to deliver poetic thoughts. It was 2004 and I was a Support Counselor at “Community Access Unlimited” in Elizabeth, NJ Anna was a director for a Group Home Project, but more importantly was a developing renaissance woman who painted, sculpted, sang, and wrote poetry.
Anna recently broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years and wrote a scathing poem about her boyfriend and how Black men treated Black women. The poem was effective in pointing out our misgivings and immaturity, so much so that I instinctively went back to my desk and wrote a poetic response to defend our honor.
I rushed back to Anna’s office and gave her the scribble that was written on my notepad and I watched as Anna read my poem with wide eyes. After reading my poem twice, Anna asked me and answered her own question “How long have you been writing, probably ten plus years right?”
I instantly faltered and embarrassed when I said besides high school, this is the first poem I’ve written in my life. Anna proceeded to say, not only with her voice but with her big expressive eyes that I’m a poetic genius and that work reads like I’m a seasoned writer.
This exchange, acknowledgment, that might have been one minute and fifteen seconds pumped an enormous amount of mental confidence into my conditioned psych. It literally gave fuel to my trajectory and single-handedly morphed my brain into the author I evolved into. Thank you, Anna Nunez, my Write Hand will forever be grateful!!
SGBC: What topics do you write about in your poems?
Keith Nweze: Any and everything that revolves around African American culture and African/African American experiences and perceptions in America.
SGBC: What is your process when writing a poem?
Keith Nweze: My writing process varies depending on the project, style, or concept of the poem. I like to write with music, allowing my creativity to be inspired by the beat or cadence of the artist I’m listening to.
Rhythm and clarity are the elements I yearn to infuse into each piece. The first 2 stanzas of 4 lines usually dictate the poem’s rhyme scheme, rhythm, subject matter, and personality. Once I start forming the body of the piece, I like to infuse profound thoughts, proverbs, emotional scenarios, metaphors, similes, etc…to capture the reader’s attention.
Sometimes the poems come out effortlessly, other times it’s a labor of love, where I start, stop, breathe, push, stop, start, breathe, push, and push more until I deliver the satisfying result of a new idea brought to life. My writing process can be therapeutic or insanely maddening depending on the flow of inspiration.
SGBC: Do you see yourself as more of a storyteller or a wordsmith?
Keith Nweze: I view myself as a storyteller that has an intimate and curious relationship with words and the emotions words can convey. I believe each and every one of us has an authentic story to contribute to society’s natural evolution.
Storytelling is the oldest form of education and entertainment. It’s the first thing we convey to our children in their developmental stages. The stories that I produce are byproducts of the experiences that shaped and influenced me as a child, teenager, young adult, and now grown man/author/poet.
SGBC: Do you consider yourself primarily a poet?
Keith Nweze: Initially, I considered myself a poet, but as I evolved with my craft and my skill set slowly developed, I began to incorporate narrative-style entries into my projects.
My fifth book Struggle was the first book that broadened my scope of expression. Most people are accustomed to digesting poetry through the spoken word platform and are opposed to reading and interpreting concepts and structures of traditional poems, so I came to the belief that I needed an alternate vehicle to carry my messages.
I’m currently going through the painstaking process of learning a new style of expression while cultivating discipline on a new branch of the literary tree. As of today when asked about my artistic label I respond I’m a Publisher/Author/Writer/Poet in training.
SGBC: Has there ever been a moment when you didn’t want to share one of your poems with someone because it felt too personal or intimate?
Keith Nweze: Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a moment where I wasn’t willing to share my Write Hand for an individual or group of people to read. I’ve had countless moments where I didn’t want to perform or read my poems at open mics due to nervousness, lack of performing experience, and memorization preparation.
I came into this thing as a writer, a giver, who would simply write (most of the time without proofreading!) I felt and thought while passing it along to a reader without an immediate response. I’ve never lost that blind, childlike sharing nature to extend my deepest emotions or sensitive personal accounts in the show and tell fashion.
That within itself embodies my courage for the unknown while I wrestle with the fears of performing the same words for a live audience. Yes, my Gemini personality is complex indeed! But I embrace evolution, I’m humbled by the artistic and literary strides I’ve made over the last 14 years and look forward to sharing and vocally engaging my beautiful community if my time on earth allows.
SGBC: Being a poet places artists in a vulnerable state that most people won’t have to show publicly. How do you maintain your mental health when you have to give so much of yourself away to strangers?
Keith Nweze: Poetry has a therapeutic nature that resides in the margins of each thought conveyed, and each emotion expressed. Placing one’s thoughts in front of them and challenging one’s self to reread, rewrite and reimagine pain, happiness, grief, joy, betrayal, and loving unions can be humbly informative to a writer going through something unresolved.
It can be madding and healing simultaneously, but ultimately it provides personal clarity to said thought or emotion, clarity that provides strength and insight to the weak and blind.
I’ve found through my literary travels that strangers are your biggest and most loyal support systems. Strangers and the feedback that routinely gives is the number one reason why I have written and published eight books.
I tend to lean on positive exchanges, understanding that my work comes from an honest and healthy place, those exchanges are inspiration sources for my creativity.
SGBC: What role do you think social media plays in the world of poetry?
Keith Nweze: It plays a huge role in the promotion and exposure of poems and poets. With one click of a button, stanzas can travel from your phone to across the world, giving upcoming poets a wide net of readers to engage. Social media’s reach and influence are boundless.
It can be as topic inspirations, skillset comparison, or connection with fellow poets. Social media single-handedly inspired “The Black Collection Series” that I’ve released in the past 5 years. For one full year, I posted pictures accompanied by poems and received positive feedback and attention from the community I truly wanted feedback and attention from.
SGBC: How do you think poetry can be used to promote social change, especially as it relates to the African American community?
Keith Nweze: Poetry is one the oldest and most effective art forms when it comes to conveying thoughts and emotions. My first poetry teachers came in the form of scholarly Hip Hop MCs…Chunk D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Tupac, Lauren Hill, Common, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, and countless others.
These individuals played the role of griots, news reporters, history teachers, political advisors, social influencers, and caseworkers. My poetry teachers showed me how powerful messaging truly is. I was introduced to Malcolm X by my poetry teachers.
I was taught high-level mathematics in the form of 5 Percenter lessons by my poetry teachers. I was taught revolutionary community engagement in the form of the Black Panther Party by my poetry teachers. I was taught sex by my poetry teachers. How to dress, talk, walk, and live life to a certain degree my poetry teachers.
SGBC: What’s your favorite poem that you’ve written and why?
Keith Nweze: “The Bums Message to the People” from my first book “Raw Thoughtz of a Wise Dumb Man” because it was the second poem I wrote on my road of creative discovery and it laid the blueprint for my purpose as a writer (Passion) and case manager (Career).
The poem was written from the perspective of a homeless man from New York City who saw it all and encountered all walks of life. The Man essentially was making insightful observations from people passing by each day from the perspective of society’s underclass. The poem gave me artistic confidence and illuminated my conceptual abilities.
Sistah Girls, be sure to follow Keith Nweze on his social media platforms and purchase his books HERE.
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