May 14, 2019 Artist to Watch: Cubs the Poet
CUBS THE POET
of Baton Rouge 2019
Recently Christian Davenport, who is also known as Cubs the Poet, was named Poet Laureate of Baton Rouge 2019. This week we were able to talk with him to find out a bit about his journey and what it means to be named Poet Laureate of the city in our Artist to Watch Blog.
How did you start writing poetry?
I believe I was born a poet. In hindsight, I remember my grandmother, Carroll Davenport, teaching me how to write cursive when I was three years old. I remember making the lowercase "j" and being fascinated with the movement of my pen, and making a symbol that meant something.Whenever I would make a "j" she would say, "Great job, Christian." Her response was the first inkling in my mind that words could have an impact on my environment.
As I grew, it wasn't until high school I took interest in rapping and free styling. I was always too nervous to recite my own lyrics, so I took my favorite rapper, Jay-z's lyrics, and recited them instead.
It wasn't until I was around 22 years and at the time I was visiting my parents who lived in Maryland, that poetry became a focal point. I remember waking up and asking myself what is it that I wanted to do. In an instant the image poetry came to mind. I did not take the time to make a plan or figure out logistics, I simply wrote a poem, called "Do You Like Poetry" and memorized it. After that I felt the need to recite it to whomever, so I went to downtown Frederick, MD, and at the time I had a broken typewriter so I used it as a prop, and began reciting the poem to who ever stopped and answered the question, "Do You Like Poetry." As they say the rest is his-story or a poem in this case.
Why do you think there is a place for spontaneous poetry?
Well, in English class the poets we learned about always seemed to be of that era or even with the more contemporary poets, we felt like their poems were specific to their experience. Some greats, are able to transcend their own perspective and encapsulate the reader, making their work timeless. However, I felt that there was a connection missing when people discussed poetry. The reason I prefer to create spontaneous poetry is to close this gap. To provide a poem so specific to the reader(s) that they have to help me come up with the topic and even give me keywords to create with. Every person is poem, they may just be unaware of how to express it. I believe that is my job, to help anyone share with us, their own poem. For instance when I perform at weddings, I am able to create poems out of stories the guests share. The couple must then read those poems and guess who told me what based on the keywords or themes of the poem. It is also exciting for the reader to know that those poems were created during such a magical and special time.
What does it mean to you to be named Poet Laureate for the city?
Baton Rouge is my birthplace. I've traveled around the country spreading the word. I've learned how to express myself in places were I stood out. In places where my opinion was silenced. I've learned to create poems in jazz halls and dive bars. Poetry is what connects the heart and soul. Often times people have to speak in context of work, politics, and race. Poetry is pure expression. I've worked to unconditon myself and to detach myself from the norms just to relate to the depths of someone's spirit. I hope to bring what I've learned back to Baton Rouge. The main arts people take an interest in typically are music and visual. I want to introduce poetry into this conversation. Whether it means having poetry readings in museums or in abandoned buildings. Providing innovative ways to teach and to help create poetry, which could also mean displaying and framing poems for people to read in spaces they would not expect. Or even "billboard poetry." Building relationships amongst students and connecting schools in the same vein as spelling bees or debate teams, I would like to do the same for poetry. Establishing competitions amongst high schools and elementary schools. Baton Rouge should be amongst those cities that reflect and allow space for the growing interest in free expression and poetry as art.
Who are your influences?
For me this is loaded question, unless you are specifically asking in the realm of poetry. My first influence would have to be the people I write for. Whenever someone asks for a custom poem, I always state that if our connection did not happen that particular poem would not exist. I often times type poems in crowded spaces such as events, weddings, streets, and festivals. I have a handful of writers I turn to when my mind begins to wander and contemplate. Of course, they are in no particular order of preference but I would say Ralph Waldo Emerson, specifically his essays on Self-Reliance. I remember carrying that book everywhere, losing it, and having to buy multiple copies. I would also have to say Albert Camus, he creates from an existential place, yet most of his work reads poetically. My favorite book of his, would be The Fall or The Myth Of Sisyphus, which is the tale of a fallen god having to carry a boulder up a mountain, watching it fall, having to descend and pick it up to take it back up the mountain. Camus compared that to the human struggle of life and the habits we choose. Writers who use their imagination to compare feelings and situation in a realistic ways are major. Jay-z's work is influential as well. The way he informs our culture to develop and educate ourselves on economic longevity is impressive. In addition to his relevance and consistency as a writer and entertainer speaks volumes on his creative spirit.
What is it like offering poetry on the streets?
It depends on the street. It will be interesting to see which neighborhoods or establishments in Baton Rouge engage and want to share their stories with me to create poems. When I set up on the streets I believe I can people watch and interact with people almost in a natural way. When people are in transition or on their way somewhere, catching them in between that journey seems to be the best time to have them participate in Spontaneous Poetry. There is not time to prepare a response or to have an answer that doesn't involve some amount of thought. I sometimes like to sit there and type the words I hear from the passing conversations, creating poems that are totally free in regards to having an intended point. It's always amazing to see what poems is created when writing that way.
While writing on the streets, I've had the opportunity to meet business owners, and help drive customers into their spaces. I've been able to observe the locals who make certain streets what they are. Characters who have become inspiration in some of work. I've seen business go out of business and new ones carve out a space in the neighborhood. The streets tend to reflect the heartbeat of a community. In my opinion there is no better place to gain inspiration.
How can people follow your work?
I am currently working on a project with Go-Daddy and in exchange they have offered to build a Poetry Still Matters website! I am looking forward to the turn out. As of now, my main platform is Instagram : @CubsThePoet . If anyone wants to book me for a gig or event, in which I will type custom poems or create custom books of poetry please feel free to contact me via email : CubsThePoet@Gmail.com