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The Scarlet & Black

Another spoken word artist expands beyond Bob’s

Que’nique Newbill ’12 performs slam poetry at Bob’s Underground Cafe, and like other artists that have been featured here, he often performs with a partner. In his case, it is previously-interviewed Jumi Bello ’13. They recently appeared together in Burling Library at a poetry night. Here, Newbill discusses his influences and performance habits, as well as the inspiration that ties his writing together.

Que Q&A
Que’nique Newbill ’12 reads on the floor

When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was young. I remember my first kind of poetry I was writing was probably when I was eight years old. I used to scribble poems on the back of a cookbook that I made when I was really young. On the back of every recipe would be some type of personal piece I wrote.

Do you have any particular inspirations that affect your writing?
I just write from experience, and I write from observations. I think people and how they work are very interesting, and just taking the most -simple things and seeing the beauty in them. Just the orchestra of how simple things come about, whether its just breathing air, or something romantic like a kiss. There’s so many things that go into that. You think about the body moving—you think about everything.

Do you have any favorite writers or books, anything that’s strongly influenced you?
A lot of my writing, particularly the pieces I write that are political, are definitely influenced by historians and sociologists…and, to a degree, other political scientists My major is political science and I definitely think my study has effected how I write and what I write about. I love W.E.B. DuBois; he’s been very influential [to me]. People who just tell the story through their own lens. Just exploring that understanding that as its own world as its own lens, that inspires me a lot. Or any type of person that can take an experience that I’ve had and turn it into something beautiful. That’s what art is about.

What’s your writing process like?
My writing process is pretty spontaneous. Sometimes I have spot poems, just an emotion of the moment, where I just spill out something, do something on the spot. Some of my best poems are like that, because I’m caught up in an emotion, and the creative process—it’s easier to kick in. I really don’t have a specific process in general. I tend to be by myself when I write…I need to have that type of solitude.

You’ve performed a lot with Jumi as a partner. What’s that like?
Jumi is part of the reason why I started writing again at Grinnell. When I first came here, I had spent the summer doing a lot of poetry and spoken word in Atlanta, and when I came here I went through a dry phase where I wasn’t writing. I went to Bob’s Open Mic one night and I heard her, and I said, “Oh my god, she knows about spoken word, she knows about performance poetry and slam poetry.” We just really hit it off. We write together, we inspire each other’s pieces. I’ve written pieces inspired by things she said and different events, memories that we shared.

Your most recent performance wasn’t at Bob’s Open Mic… It was at the library.
Rebecca Stuhr invited me and Jumi to do spoken word night at the library and it was really, really awesome. It was awesome to share the stage with Jumi, and to have the library recognize that as art. Some people don’t recognize arts that come out of urban areas as legitimate. Having many professors being there to support us was really, really touching. And having a lot of friends there, and a lot of people listening in general. I hope people enjoyed the show. I’m looking forward to doing other things like that and looking forward to the campus doing more events like that in general. The library’s doing awesome things.

Could you talk about your recent work? Are there any themes that tie it together?
I do a lot of personal projects with photography, and sometimes my photography inspires some things I write, and my writing inspires my photography—[as] if I were to capture my words in an image. I’m playing with that…I like exploring different themes and personifying a lot of natural experiences we have, as if each process that brings something about was its own mind, was its own person. Exploring gender, love…race; exploring different things through an abstract lens that people wouldn’t normally see. And definitely religion. Faith and family—I always have pieces about that.

Besides Jumi, are there any other student performers that you’ve met at Grinnell that stand out?
Kevin Jennison [’12], Rashawn Simms [’12] and Maureen Kennedy [’11] are all awesome poets. Last year, CBS hosted a poetry slam as part of Black History Month…there were about 8 different people who competed. I won…do not make me sound cocky. I swear, Kevin Jennison is an awesome poet. He just has a certain energy about him. I love hearing Rashawn perform, because sometimes different things we write about overlap. She gives a different perfective to it. Also, Speak is growing this year. Ever other Thursday, Bob’s Underground, 7 p.m. Shoutout!

Are there any other memories that stand out from your writing career?
I think my sister’s death probably had one of the greatest impacts on me. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve dealt with in my life. My sister passed away last year. She was definitely the closest person to me—in terms of anything. She was my best friend, she was my role model to a big degree, my big sister. I think about her when I write. I come from a family of people who all write. But I think writing, more than anything, is an escape, a creative release. It’s just you, you know what I mean? It’s just you.

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    XOXONov 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Omg, he is soo sexy.

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