Street: How did you get started writing poetry? Tell us about your role models or favorite poets.
Miles Hodges: I feel like I’ve been writing poems for most of my life. It didn’t become a professional gig until after my junior year of high school, when HBO released the Brave New Voices series. My favorite writer of all–time is probably James Baldwin—but I get asked that question a lot and don’t think it’s fair to limit my answers to people who have only written books. For instance, Bob Dylan is one of my favorite writers. Tupac Shakur is one of my favorite writers. Biggie Smalls, Joshua Bennett, Alysia Harris, Frank Ocean, Joni Mitchell, E. E. cummings, The Weeknd, Bill Simmons, Shakespeare, Dave Matthews. Folks like that.
Street: Do you write to perform or do you perform what you write?
MH: I try my best not to write with the direct intention of performing. There are certain things that sound cool on stage but don’t necessarily enhance the piece as a whole. Every spoken word artist approaches that a little differently though…
Street: How do you perceive the audience when you touch on more personal issues in your work?
MH: As nonexistent. It’s the only way I can reach the core of the sentiment I wrote it in, regardless of how “personal” the material may be.
Street: Tell us about how collaborations like Strive work. What is the creative process like?
MH: The creation of collaborative spoken word pieces has everything to do with the personalities of the artists involved. Every writer has a different process. Essentially two artists come together and marry those processes over a common idea. We decide on the concept of the poem. We talk about how we want to address that concept and communicate or thoughts on such. Most times that involves brainstorming, free–writing, drafting, editing and rehearsing.
Street: Does your satisfaction with a final collaborative piece feel the same as with a poem you wrote entirely on your own?
MH: Yes. Entirely so.
Street: Do you ever use graphics, music or other media to supplement your work?
MH: One of the coolest parts of The Strivers Row is the fact that we are actively trying to expand the reach of spoken word. If you’ve ever been to a show, you know there are certain aspects of the live performances that simply can’t be recreated. Strivers Row is trying to take those live performances and give them breadth outside of the stage. So yeah, we’ve experimented with recording and visuals and things. Most of our showcase performances get turned into YouTube videos. We shot an original visual for “Harlem” and Josh and Jazmine (also members of the Strivers Row) have a couple great visuals as well.
Street: If you had to pick a single favorite moment from your cross–country tour with Strivers Row…
MH: Maybe Western Connecticut. Or Boston. Yeah, shoutout to that one night in Boston. Sheesh.
Street: Where do you see your poetry career taking you in the future?
MH: Ah, that’s a great question. I’m working on a couple projects that might take me towards film and screen stuff next year. But we’ll see I guess.