Experience as a percussionist has helped Jordan Simpson to perform as a SLAM poet. He tells us, "Understanding beats and rhythms really helps me on stage as a poet, in that I can build up to a [climax] and I understand [chapters and verses], the structure of a poem."
The Bronx-born Simpson, currently a pre-pharmacy student at Texas Southern University, became involved with SLAM poetry just a few years ago. (SLAM poetry, Simpson tells us, "is like the Olympics for writing. You compete with other poets on stage and you get judged on your performance. There are competitions all around the world.") Simpson won first place in the first SLAM competition he entered. "I didn't really know very much about it, but I put my best foot forward and I won. I was really surprised," the 19-year-old says. That win earned Simpson a spot on the Metafour Houston Youth Poetry Slam Team. From there he's participated in several national competitions, including the largest international youth poetry competition in the world, HBO's Brave New Voices. In 2013, he was ranked among the top 25 young poets in Texas.
What He Does: If he's asked what a SLAM poet is, Simpson's answer is usually akin to a rant. "By the time the conversation gets around to poetry, I'm usually very excited," he laughs. "I love speaking with people who don't know the poetry world. So if somebody brings it up, I jump on the topic."
Why He Likes It: "I love the competition. Also, I love that my voice can reach strangers. Knowing that someone I don't even know might be able to find value in my words, that's really great."
As to the non-performing aspect of SLAM poetry, Simpson says he especially enjoys the editing process. "If I put together a piece of work, it's never finished until I say it is. The fact that I can keep working on it, keep making it better and better, I love that."
What Inspires Him: "My life experiences spark most of my work. Sometimes with current events, I start to analyze what's really going on in a situation, how that needs to change and what I can do to change it."
If Not This, Then What: "Before I got into poetry, I was a percussionist. I keep up my percussion skills. And I'm really strong in the sciences. Right now I'm in pre-pharmacy courses at school."
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If Not Here, Then Where: Simpson has traveled around the country as a member of the Meta-Four Team. He thinks Houston is a good home base and he isn't planning to relocate any time soon. "Knowing Houston and the diversity that we have here, I really feel at home here. There's room for everything you want to do here. But if I had to pick another city besides Houston, it would probably be New York. That's where I'm from and there's a huge poetry [community] there."
What's Next: Simpson is looking forward to the start of his second year next fall at Texas Southern University. On the poetry front, he's looking for one, very specific thing: "Growth." That means more writing, more performing, more traveling and hopefully, more understanding of the world around him, he says.
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