A poet’s life

Jamel Shakir

Photo By Tom Angel

Twenty-five-year-old Jamel Shakir is a poet. And like a lot of poets he’s also a professional student. Having moved to Chico from South Central L.A. five years ago ("I was fooled by the blossoming flowers that Mother Nature set before me … lured by that beauty,” he says, laughing), Shakir quickly amassed a small slew of degrees—a B.A. and an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in creative writing for oral performance—and earned a reputation as a performer at various poetry slams, forensics tournaments and even impromptu free-styling shows in the Free Speech Area on the Chico State University campus.

Shakir is currently working on organizing some of his works for the Internet, trying to get distribution for poetry and music he’s recorded in his home studio, and is also pursuing another master’s degree (in interdisciplinary studies).

What writing have you been doing lately?

Lately, I have been compiling mythology. It’s really different from the performance-based poetry. It’s still theatrical, but it’s more so in a way where I create theatrical scenes and I play characters within the scenes for the purpose of creating a mythology about myself and the world around me. I think that we are in need of a new form of mythology, [something] that will be added to the classics.

What’s it all about?

I kill myself over and over again. I keep coming back! I’m kind of like a rooted vegetable or something—it’s like every time you cut it down it just keeps growing back again. I behead myself. I put my head back on. It’s nothing new that I’m doing. It’s just that I’m applying concepts of old to now.

Do the vastly different environments of L.A. and Chico figure in this work?

The material that I produce does address the shift from South Central L.A.'s urban environment to Chico, California’s rural-American environment. An adaptation process has happened, but it hasn’t been a clean transplant. There have been complications all along the way. It has a mental effect where I exist between two worlds.

Do you still perform at the poetry slams?

The cash prizes don’t lure me like they used to. I would be in it for the sex, but I haven’t gotten laid yet from doing poetry.

What are you doing wrong?

I don’t know. I would like to tailor my work to make some more romantic, alluring poetry, but when I say my poems I just get dumbfounded looks from women.