From Behind the Microphone: LOVE the Poet
Coworker: “Sherri, who is this playing?”
Me: “Poet out of Baltimore called LOVE the poet; I’ve known her for years.”
Coworker, amazed: “You know her?”
I guess I am in disbelief that everybody doesn’t know the actress, poet, guitarist, singer, and photographer, Michelle Nelson, professionally known as LOVE the poet. I met her back in 2009. Though I can’t remember how we met, I always remember being blown away by her performances. Effortless in her ability to transition through topics from religion to LOVE, politics to sex, LOVE is in command of her audience whenever she takes the stage—an audience that never knows what expect from show to show!
One of my favorite poems, “God’s Country”:
As dynamic and respected a performer as she is, she is also one of the most supportive people I have met in this community. She is always willing to answer a question or provide feedback. She wants all artists to be their best and deliver their best work. To that end, she slightly nudges, gently pushes, and occasionally downright bullies us to write more, be more vulnerable and perform better. She wants to see all of us in the community to grow.
I’m sure she isn’t aware that every once in a while when I write a new performance piece there are two thoughts in the back of my mind: is it good enough for me to perform at her monthly venue called Be Free Fridays, at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center in Baltimore, MD, and what will be her reaction.
She teaches a class for adults called Live Lyrics; several writers and poets in the area have studied with her, including myself and Rudy Fly Ceniceros, who says:
LOVE the Poet has changed my life for the better. She pulled out the poet in me that’s been struggling to get out. A great teacher, even better friend, she will always hold a special place in my heart.
She has been an inspiration to many artist in the Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC area Mary Bowman:
Michelle, aka LOVE the poet is one of the only people in the poetry community that saw my need for growth and not only pointed it out but helped me and taught me how to be a better artist. She is just ‘good people’ and I am so glad to have her in my life. She also, gave me my first touring opportunity with the Punany Poets, hosted my EP release at the legendary Warm Wednesdays, and also has given me countless other wonderful opportunities. She’s amazing!!! And her work ethic is insane. I am reaching for the day when my catalog starts to look like hers. She’s my mentor, my teacher, and my friend and I love her so dearly.
LOVE is a featured performer with the touring HBO’s Punany Poets. Founder Jessica Holter:
LOVE the poet is one of the best storytellers I have ever known. She is a blessed gift to The Punany Project.
She is fearless. As an artist she is constantly reinventing herself, taking risks, and pushing her limits.
From acting in Shakespeare plays to one woman shows to her latest project, the video “Like Gold,” LOVE never ceases to keep pushing the boundaries of what can be done as an artist in this world!
Stepping from Behind the Microphone: LOVE the poet
Sherri: Tell us more about what brought you to writing poetry?
LOVE: I began writing poetry when I was 11 in a journal meant for me to process having an alcoholic parent. When I began to write in it the only things that would come out were poems, and I have been writing ever since.
Sherri: Tell the story of your first experience performing.
LOVE: I was in my senior year in high school and I decided to do Lauryn Hill’s “That Thing” for the talent show that year. For the performance I got about 8 of my friends involved and they acted out a skit where ultimately the boyfriend gets mad and smacks his girlfriend to the ground. Then I did a poem from behind the curtain and we sang a segue into the beat dropping for “That Thing” and then we came out and rocked the song.
Sherri: Your stage name is LOVE the poet. Why did you choose that name? What do you want the audience to know about you when they hear it?
LOVE: I was given the name LOVE in college before I entered into the very first “Battle Uv Da Skoolz.” collegiate poetry slam put on by Poetry For The People Baltimore. When I began hosting poetry events on Coppin’s campus I would have my audience members snap and say “love” after each poet (which I knew was cliché but it made me laugh) so people would see me on the yard and snap and say “love.” So, when I needed a poetry name my friend Raynell suggested that I just go by LOVE because she said it suited me. I added “the poet” around 2006.
Sherri: Who is your favorite writer?
LOVE: My favorite writer song writer right now is Christen B. My favorite poet is Pablo Neruda.
Sherri: You have one hour to have a conversation with anyone in history, living or dead. Who will you choose, and why?
LOVE: I would have a conversation with Ella Baker, the Founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), because she would know how to mobilize our young people into the civil rights leaders we need in 2015.
Sherri: Your perfect concert: who are three acts, living or dead, you would like to see perform?
LOVE: My grandmother Bettye Nelson (singer), My Uncle Vernon Lee Nelson (singer/pianist), and my Uncle John Henry Nelson (singer)… They are all deceased but truly the most talented people I have ever known.
Sherri: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I’m left handed but I play a right handed guitar. I pick the raisins out of my raisin bran. My favorite all time movies are “Steel Magnolias” “Beaches” “Troy” and “The American Tale”
Sherri: Do you have another creative outlet? If not, what is something you have always wanted to learn how to do?
LOVE: Definitely. I am a photographer, an actor, a musician and a playwright.
Side note: Her photography has been featured in art shows. Her eye is amazing; some of my favorite pictures for 2014 were taken by her.
Sherri: [Borrowed from Inside the Actor’s Studio] If heaven exists, what do you want to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
LOVE: Welcome Home.
For more information on LOVE the Poet please visit www.lovethepoet.com