Breaking Through Slammed Doors
A couple of years in to my career, people kept asking me if I was going to put a book out. In the early stages of my career, I was writing three poems a day. It seemed like I really had a lot to get out.
I sent manuscripts out to everyone publishing poetry at the time, and my mailbox was soon flooded with rejection letters. Some of the feedback that I received was really hard to swallow, but I understood that spoken word was very new, and there was an established understanding of what was acceptable.
When all of the door closes, you either pack it in or you find a way. Long before self-publishing became the multi million dollar industry that it is today, I put out a book in 1995, and sold over 2000 copies out of my car. I followed that up in 1996, with another 2000 seller. To date, I have published nine titles, and I think that I was five or six titles in before a publisher came knocking on my door. Today, I have two titles that have been published by publishers.
I have never been one who believes in settling. I see poets putting out product all the time, and are happy to sell a hundred units, which doesn’t make sense to me, but if that’s your bar, I can’t knock it.
I do have to acknowledge, Andrea Thompson, who stood up for spoken word artists, and made it possible for me to enter the League of Canadian Poets, who previously looked down their noses at us. After I entered, it was still a few years, before their policies really changed, opening the door for spoken word artists.
Following Andrea’s lead, I lobbied the Urban Music Association of Canada, who produced the Canadian Urban Music Awards, suggesting that there should be a category for spoken word artists, which eventually happened in 2001.
Andrea Thompson and Lillian Allen also played significant roles in getting the Canada Council for the Arts to recognize the spoken word, eventually creating a grant specifically for the genre, which was later expanded to include storytelling artists.
I have always believed that if I am going to put my name on something, it had to be of the highest quality. Every book and album that i’ve produced has been as professional as possible, but it didn’t end there for me. I’ve never seen myself as less than any other artist, so i lobbied to have my albums on the shelves of HMV, and low and behold, right beside the hip hop, there was Dwayne Morgan!
It has always bothered me, that the spoken word scene always seemed to aim so lowly. With that, I decided to move When Brothers Speak and When Sisters Speak to the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. This move was major for me, as I had no experience working with theatres, and the venue made the show a lot more expensive than I was used to, but I stepped out on faith, believed in myself, the artists I was putting on the stage, and my brand, and low and behold, for years, we sold the show out. No-one could imagine 500 people watching spoken word. Today When Brothers Speak and When Sisters Speak are the largest and most expensive spoken word shows in the country.
I’ve learned that in life, we get what we expect and work for. When we set the bar low, we achieve, but not to our potential. When we aim for the stars and step out on faith, we’re often amazed by the trail that we blaze and the legacy that we leave behind.
DMTags: Dwayne Morgan, perseverance, poetry, poetry slam, slam