Interview with 3Po3try NYC Poet Najee Omar

najeeby: Daniel Dissinger

Najee Omar embodies the identity of CITIZEN Poet.  His words carve spaces into hard concrete, collect scraps of family portraits strewn in an abandon house, and ease you into an expressive journey of personal story, growth, and knowledge.  He teaches his audience.  He embraces his audience.  The first time I saw Najee perform I knew the game had just been shattered, rearranged, and rebuilt into something uniquely sublime.  Najee invites you to the table.

Come support Najee, along with some other amazing Artists, July 31st @ Organic Modernism for the second 3Po3try NYC event.  Follow the link for tickets and info.

BIO: Najee Omar is a writer and performance artist based out of Brooklyn. His multidisciplinary work uses the language of theatre, music, and poetry to create an honest dialogue around the injustices of humanity. His readings and features include Urban Juke Joint, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Au Chat Noir (Paris), and Duke University. As a teaching artist, he’s turned classrooms into stages by conducting poetry and theatre workshops to inner city teens and at-risk youth in schools across New York City and Los Angeles. In 2012 he was awarded the Poet-in-Paris Fellowship and he currently serves on HigherSelf’s Artist Development Committee as the curator of artist showcases and co-host of their monthly Open Mic Series. His mission is to cultivate an audience of deep thinkers and inspire the next generation of change agents.

How intense is the HEAT in your poetry?

My poetry is all sparks and dancing flames. It is full of HEAT. Rising, simmering, boiling heat. And it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

What does your poetry build around the reader/listener?

I would hope that my poetry builds a safe space around readers and listeners. A space where they feel comfortable questioning, examining, shouting at, digging deep into, and exploring the words they are confronted with.

My poetry also builds a sort’ve fun house around my audience. A jumbled place with mirrors that reflect me, the writer, and just may be the listeners will find reflections of themselves somewhere in the midst of the writing.

What do you fill the room with when you perform?

Almost every time, my goal is to fill the room with bulging eyes, screwed up faces, smiles, laughter, claps, stomps, snaps, tears, and full hearts.

If your poetry was a body of water, what/where would it be?  Why?

If my poetry were a body of water, it would definitely be the Hudson River. It’s so NY. It’s dirty. It’s significant. It’s full of hidden gems and ugly things. And its something you appreciate seasonally. Something you admire from a far. It’s got a striking beauty to it, but you don’t want to drown in it.

If your poetry was a meal, what is it and how is it prepared?

If my poetry were a meal, it’d definitely be spaghetti with ground turkey and Italian bread. It’s traditional and flavorful, with a modern twist. Not too complicated, and enjoyed by many. The taste is a combination of a lot of preparation and hidden ingredients. And it’s served best with many complimentary pieces.

If you could tattoo a word to your body, what would it be and why?

I don’t have any tattoos, but I’ve been thinking about getting one lately. If I had to choose a single word to tattoo to my body it’d be HEART. I’d want people to know when they see me, I’m wearing this on the outside, without question.

What leads you to the presentation of your words? 

I present out of necessity. I feel like it’s a calling of mine. Not only to write, but to perform. I believe that there are many ways to engage an audience of readers & listeners. And performing is an exciting way to share with others. It’s a spiritual experience, a give and take. And it feeds me, as an artist, as much as I would hope that it feeds the listener.

How does space play a part in how you write/read?

Space is everything. I am extremely sensitive to the spiritual space at a reading/performance. There are many times I adjust or completely change pieces depending on what the emotional demand of the room is.

The physical space encourages me to move around. Sometimes even to run. It pushes me to engage everything and everyone around me.

The space on the page is really my canvas. And each time, my job is to paint the words and make the most appropriate picture for the tone of the piece.

Space can often be synonymous with silence. But silence speaks loud too.

What are some memorable words a mentor/teacher ever told you?

“Poetry is when words get together and have a surprise party.” – Told to me by Cecilia Woloch.

If you could retitle any book, what would it be and why?

If I could retitle a book I would change “The Giver” to “Don’t Pick This Up/Keep on Walking.” Simply because it was one of the many texts that haunted my elementary years. It’s probably a great book though.

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