Coon the Poet and warrior
Inside of me I’m hearing my pulse; this ain’t a joke,
and every time my heart beat blood came out of my throat.
I thought that was all she wrote but I guess she kept writing.
Coon the Poet was born Chris Coon, and strongly prefers to be known by his last name—to own that name and drain it of any insult. Born and raised in South Sacramento, he was a pretty passionate Valley High theatre and English student, as well as a budding poet and rapper when, at 15, he was hunted down and shot three times in what was likely a case of mistaken identity. As Coon tells it, he faced the certainty that he would die. When he realized he was alive, he says, he was filled with “an overwhelming feeling of love and gratefulness.” Since then he has worked with various youth organizations and recently founded Coon the Poet, LLC. His mission: “Inspiring, educating and opening minds through poetry and spoken word.”
You’ve talked about your journey and your mission. How did it begin?
In 2013, I turned 25, and that year I made a decision that I was going to finally follow my dream: to leave the city and go travel and experience the art scene and the poetry scene elsewhere. I was let go as a recovery specialist working with the juvenile drug court program, the STARS program. They let me go, and I went out to the river. I spent seven hours out by the river, and I just sat there. And when they let me go, they really gave me the greenlight. So I geared up, I had a lot of shows, I met a lot of dope individuals. I was voted Best Male Spoken Word Artist in the Sounds of Soul Music Awards, and I looked out into the crowd—I didn’t think I was the best at anything. But I knew I had a mission.
You described moving around a lot when you were young. What was that about?
My mother didn’t own a house ’til I was 13, so it was just moving from apartment to apartment, from rental to rental. My parents were young when they met and married, so there was a struggle finding that stability. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how to do that, with children, myself personally. My mother is a phenomenal woman, strongest woman that I’ve ever seen in my life.
So, what inspired you? Were you reading poetry, listening to spoken word, going to shows?
For me, 7 years old, my father, who left home when I was 3, came back when I was 7. And he came back with a notebook of all the rhymes that he was writing. My pops is the one that introduced me to writing rhymes. That was our way of connecting, ’cause of course our relationship was estranged. I used to steal his book, keep his book and rap his rhymes over and over until I then started adding to them. And then I started writing my own. The thing was, I had always been a storyteller, even before I knew how to use a pencil. And that was with my toys, my action figures. I’d grab a Power Ranger, a Michelangelo Ninja Turtle, and I’d make them brothers, and I’d create a storyline. So I’ve always been an imaginative thinker and a creative kid, and it just turned into words as I grew.
Talk about your first outfit, the E-Legal Tag Team, and Coon and Trouble.
As I look back I’m like, yo there was nothin’ like that, because it came organically. We pulled from different things that inspired us, such as wrestling. We were WWF kids. And so we would tag each other in as we were performing. But that came from, honestly, us hanging out all over Sacramento. Once I hit a certain age, we started taking the bus and the light rail, going from South Sac to North Sac, to the mall…
Hanging out—and meeting girls! So, like “Coon, see them? You start, I’ll finish.” So it was like, tag team. So, “Hey, what’s goin’ on ladies.” “Hey, tag me in.” It was that kinda organic, playful feel. And honestly, we just brought that to the stage, that same interaction. By 2011, we’d been running for six or seven years. As time went, we grew apart—I’m not gonna say “departed” because me and Trouble are brothers for life. But for me, I had made a decision at a young age: This is what I’m gonna do. We were part of a group, E-Legal. And we were telling our stories. And we were young. And I was fresh coming out of the hospital. Just recovering from being shot three times. So that was my therapy, that was my family. And I made a decision that I was going to tell my story, and I was going to go all the way in with this.
Tell me about your book.
It should be finished in a few weeks to a month. It’s entitled A Warriors Journey (A Poetic Documentation). The preface of the book is a short anecdote, and it’s going to be the story, in detail, of my being shot. Everything that happened on that day, ending in the hospital. The next chapter will be “A Warrior’s Battles and Travels,” about everything that I battled through after I made the decision that I am going to do something different. From the court level to the retaliation level, I decided that I just wanted it to end. And from that decision, that’s what placed me on a path to become who I am right now. That’s why I’m sitting in front of you as this man.