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  • Writer's pictureSimply Sherri

From Behind the Microphone: Mark Goggins

Since the dawn of time poets and other writers have always been in search of an outlet for their work, from standing on stages to writing books they just want to be read, heard and appreciated. In the digital age the internet has become a major platform and, thanks to Mark Goggins, for many poets the Black Poetry Café (BPC) become home. I was invited to BPC by TwistNWordz at the very beginning of my writing career. Mark instantly introduced himself to me and made me feel at ease with my work, and has continued encouraging me to keep writing.

We met in the summer of 2008 at one of the first Poetry Fest events in Myrtle Beach, SC. His personality is just as warm and open in person as it is online. Through the years we have remained friends, worked together on building the BPC brand and have been enthusiastic supporters of each other’s endeavors. Even though I had to step back from working on the events, I have really enjoyed watching the growth of the BPC and of Poetry Fest weekend.

Mark Goggins and Melissa JustMEThePoet Ellis

He still shows the same support today as he did back then. Poet Melissa “JussMe” Ellis says:

Most people don’t know all that Mark does for the art of poetry and spoken word. He gives a great deal of his time, personal resources and energy to showcasing talent and offering a stage to both new and seasoned poets. His love for the art comes before personal shine, and he often pushes his own gift to the back burner to nurture the gifts of others. He creates opportunities that poets may not get otherwise. For that–for his generosity, selflessness, and sacrifice–I am eternally grateful.

TwistNWordz and Mark Goggins

Former From Behind the Microphone feature TwistNWordz has a great deal of respect for Mark and what he has built. He says:

Mark Goggins: I call him “The Don,” meaning there is a passion and ownership to what he does. He opens many doors to paths that were already there. He inspires the uninspired.

Over the years thousands of poets have come through the Black Poetry Café, whose Facebook group has a current membership of over 2500! We all owe a huge “thank you” to Mark for setting up this space for us.

Stepping from Behind the Microphone: Mark Goggins

Sherri: What brought you to writing poetry? Mark: My writing actually began as love poetry, with me writing poems to win girls’ affection <lol>, but it wasn’t something I did with any real frequency until the infamous Rodney King verdict, circa 1991, when I penned a piece called “Not Guilty” in response to the verdict that allowed the officers to go free. In those days, I was really more of an activist using poetry as a more creative way to rage against the system.

Sherri: Tell the story of your first experience performing. Mark: It was in the early 90s in Charleston, SC, during a King Day event. And yes, I was nervous, kept my hands in my pockets the entire time as if I was trying to find some ease <lol>. The piece went without a hitch, though, and was very well-received—and of course there was this tremendous feeling of relief afterwards!

Sherri:    What lead you to start the Black Poetry Café? Mark: I was actually kicked out of quite a few poetry sites (seriously!), not because I was a bad apple or anything but because many of the owners of these spots created the spots as if it they were tributes to themselves, like their own personal fan clubs for them and their cliques. So when a newbie like myself would come in and start receiving as much, if not more, love than the site owner, the owner would feel threatened for some reason. So I started to run out of spots to write in <lol> and was encouraged by some to create my own spot since I had already helped create or build several other sites. Plus, there was some general dissatisfaction with several sites that charged a membership fee, or had a lot of rules that members didn’t like; so, on March 3, 2005, the Black Poetry Café was born. There were no membership fees, no censorship, no self-righteous condemnations, and we tried to regard everyone as an integral part of the site—and, as they say, the rest was history, with us becoming one of the hottest poetry spots online for several years!

Sherri: You have chosen not to use a stage name, is there a reason why? Mark: I never really saw the need for a stage name because few, if any, of the greatest poets I had read about had one. Plus, most of my material was of the conscious and revolutionary variety in those days and I didn’t want to be perceived as ‘hiding’ behind a stage name. I felt if I was bold enough to write it, then I should be bold enough to stand behind, and defend, what I was writing.

Sherri: Who is your favorite writer? Mark: Unquestionably, Nas. I know he’s a hip-hop poet but his ability to weave words and to creatively tell stories has always appealed to me. I’ve been greatly influenced by hip-hop since I was a young teen when it first hit the radio, but Nas’ style really seemed to change the game lyrically and he forced EVERYBODY to upgrade their pen game in addition to mic skills.

Sherri: You have one hour to have a conversation with anyone in history. Who would you choose, and why? Mark: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I think this man is brilliance personified. Forget the Zionist-controlled media’s perception and sound bites. Forget that you may be of a different religious persuasion.  Like Public Enemy once stated, “Don’t tell me that you understand, until you HEAR the man!” I love his grasp of our history, his brilliant lectures/speeches and use of language, his grasp of both the Bible and the Holy Qur’an, his charisma, his message of self-sufficiency, his love for our people—such that he would withstand so many blistering and withering attacks on our behalf—and his fearlessness. To me he is the most complete example of living black manhood, and when I first heard him speak on C-SPAN around 1992, it was love at first listen!  I was introduced to so many Black scholars like Yosef Ben-Jochannon, and Walter Rodney, and J.A. Rogers, and Ivan Van Sertima, and Cheikh Anta Diop, and so many more, just from my dedication to hearing his words! So I credit him for so much of what I have learned and what I’ve been able to share with others through my poetry and other writings.

Sherri: Your perfect concert: who are three acts, living or dead, you would like to see perform? Mark: Hmmm… In their prime, Michael Jackson (Greatest Entertainer Ever), James Brown, and Chuck Berry.

Sherri: Tells us something about yourself that most people don’t know. Mark: Most people don’t know that, as much as I love movies about our history and things, I’m also a fiend for a good horror movie <lol>; always have been! Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies (the ones during the 2000s), Wrong Turn… Those movies are among my horror faves. There are a lot of duds in the horror movie genre, but every now and then I run across a good one.

Sherri: Do you have another creative outlet? If not, what would you like to learn? Mark: I always wished that I could draw but I can hardly draw a straight line so perhaps it’s just not in the cards for me! <lol> My son, Mark Jr., is 10 years old and he can draw pretty well and is SUPER creative/inventive, so perhaps I’ll learn a few things from him.

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?

Mark: “Well done, my faithful servant” is all I need to hear. I want the Creator to be pleased with me eventually. I have a lot of work to do, though, to get to that point. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m so much better than I used to be!

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