Marcus, welcome to Books2Mention Magazine.
You have taken the industry by storm with the debut of Songs In Search Of A Voice. The reviews for this collection of poetry are truly amazing. In fact, you have reached best-seller status, and we would like to congratulate you on this accomplishment. We are pleased to give our readers a chance to learn more about you and your artistry.
B2M: Do you remember your first work of poetry?
MARCUS: I don't remember exactly what it said, but it was a poem that I wrote when I was about seven years old, and it was about how much I loved my parents. I think I wrote it around Christmas time because I was trying to slick some good presents out of them.
B2M: Did you immediately share it with others?
MARCUS: I showed it to them, and they just ate it up; mission accomplished.
B2M: What is the motivation behind your writing and what do you hope to offer the world with your poetry?
MARCUS: I've written my whole life, but I didn't take writing seriously until I read The Panther And The Lash, a collection of Langston Hughes's poetry that was published after his death. I was completely blown away by the power and passion of his writing. The poems were so vivid, so honest, and so moving that I couldn't help but be inspired. After I finished it, I thought to myself, "Now, THIS is what it's all about." Thanks to Langston, I realized just how powerful writing can be, and that's what fuels me to this day - I want people to be just as inspired as I was; not necessarily inspired to write poetry, but just compelled to be the best at whatever it is that they do. Great art is supposed to do that: it's supposed to bring out the best in us, no matter what our stations in life. It touches us in such ways that we can't help but excel personally as a result of being so moved. My hope is that my writing continues to serve as such a vehicle for others even after I'm gone.
B2M: The title Songs In Search Of A Voice is so fitting for the entire body of work contained therein. How did you come up with the title?
MARCUS: The title is actually a metaphor, an homage to all the influences that helped me find my own voice as a writer: Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Pablo Neruda, Nikki Giovanni, Ai, A.R. Ammons - the list is endless. My own talents would long ago have been lost if it weren't for the guidance of their brilliance and genius. I owe so much to them for all that they taught me, so it was only right for my first book to be a tribute to them.
B2M: Your poetry feels as though you have put your whole heart and soul in each line. Was it a challenge for you to dig deep and pull out words that would touch the heart and soul of readers?
MARCUS: It was, and there are even some poems in the collection that I really didn't want to write, like "Silence Unbroken" and the untitled poem about loneliness. Whenever I write, no matter what I write, I always try to capture the essence of whatever it is that I'm writing about; so, if it's a poem about domestic violence, child abuse, or some other emotional trauma, I make myself feel exactly what someone in that situation would feel. It makes the poem real and adds to its overall authenticity. The flip side of that, though, is that it can be very draining emotionally to go through that process, which is why it's tough to tackle certain topics. What matters most, though, is that as long as the writing does touch the hearts and souls of readers, then it's rewarding to know that I've done my job - no matter how hard it may be.
B2M: There have been so many people who have expressed their belief in you being one of the most profound poets of today. How does this make you feel?
MARCUS: Well, firstly, I appreciate the compliment. It's very gratifying to hear that people truly think that.
Secondly, it just feels good to know that I'm getting through to people. The most important aspect of all creative expression is to be honest, no matter what you're talking/writing/singing about. Honesty is crucial to communication, and all artists strive to establish sound communication with their audience through their chosen art form. People may say that my writings are profound, but I also want them to know that what I write comes from a place that's honest and genuine.
B2M: Not only are you a talented poet, you are also the Founder and CEO of Urban Echoes Entertainment. Can you share with our readers your vision for Urban Echoes Entertainment?
MARCUS: I've always had a lifelong love of the arts, and when I started Urban Echoes a couple years ago; I envisioned it becoming a full-service entertainment company that would reflect that love. I've also always been a champion of the underdog, so I wanted to make sure that we gave unsung artists who often get ignored by the mainstream a chance to share their voices with the world. I planned for our signature offerings to include such projects as producing stage plays, holding poetry slams, and hosting film festivals - and we'll be doing all those things beginning next year. We've also recently launched the FreeVoice Awards TM for poetry & short fiction, which are annual writing competitions that will recognize quality works with cash prizes and publication.
Ironically, I never thought that Urban Echoes would get into book publishing, but after my initial difficulty going the mainstream route to get a publisher for Songs, I decided to publish it myself through the company. The rest is history, and I must say that I'm more than satisfied with all our success so far.
B2M: In addition to being an entrepreneur, you are involved in several nonprofit organizations that are instrumental in offering support to children and families in need. Will you tell our readers more about these organizations and how you became involved?
MARCUS: I started The Lady Oya Foundation (LOF) as a direct result of an abusive relationship that I experienced a few years ago. I met a very charming, very beautiful young woman, quickly fell in love with her, and bought into the typical faĆ§ade that I later discovered abusers initially put forth. True to form, it wasn't long before she started showing all the tell-tale signs of abuse: jealousy of my relationships with family and friends, baseless allegations of infidelity, pushing me physically and emotionally just to elicit a violent response from me ... I had no idea where it was all coming from until I found out that she had been severely abused her entire life. That's when I realized that she was just transferring the pain of her unresolved, open emotional wounds onto me - and that's when I knew that I had to get out of the relationship, lest one or both of us lose our lives.
Despite how things turned out, I genuinely loved my ex-girlfriend, and one reason why I stayed in the relationship for so long was that I was trying to help her heal from all her past abuse. Ultimately, nothing that I tried worked, but I was determined not to let that whole experience be wasted. Realizing just how serious the problem of DV is, I resolved to do something to help curb its swelling tide; even if I couldn't help her, I could still help many others like her. So, the LOF was borne of that desire to foster positive change.
I didn't want the LOF to be a carbon copy of other organizations that also support DV survivors, though, so I made sure that we developed programs and services that attack the problem of DV in unique, unprecedented ways. The Lady Oya Scholars Program, our hallmark service, is a scholarship program that provides financial assistance to DV survivors attending post-secondary programs (college, beauty school, trade school, etc.) Nothing like that was being done at the time. Knowing how severe an impact DV has on its victims' financial status, I couldn't think of a better way to tackle the problem and foster the lasting empowerment of survivors. We also have other programs that bring the true nature of the problem to the forefront so that it can be dealt with openly and effectively.
I got involved with Read Seed quite unexpectedly; they had been operating in my hometown of Durham, NC, for years, and I'd never heard of them until I saw a story about them in the paper one morning - I knew it wasn't a coincidence. I've always been a staunch advocate of child literacy, and their prime objective is to get books into the hands of kids living in public housing who don't otherwise have access to reading materials. I've been a Board member ever since then, and it's been great helping them to become such a powerful force in the community. It's also great to see the impact that we're having in kids' lives. They love it, and that makes it all worthwhile.
B2M: You seem to be very involved in social issues and have made an apparent effort to become part of the solution by presenting awareness through your writing. Do you feel that as a writer it is your responsibility to offer knowledge as well as entertain readers with your books?
MARCUS: Absolutely, and it's best to do both at the same time. That was my primary intent with Songs, particularly the "(Re)Vamp" section of senryu poems: you want to enlighten people to the issues that they should take seriously, but you don't want to come off as preachy because then they'll tune you out, no matter how important what you have to say is. It's a fine line to tread, but we as artists have to make the effort because we truly are the real mouthpieces of society; the cultural tradition that started with the ancient African griots and then passed on through Negro spirituals, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Black Arts Movement continues with us.
B2M: What has been the most exciting thing about seeing your work in print?
MARCUS: Walking into stores and seeing it on the same shelves as Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, E. Ethelbert Miller, Ai, and especially Langston Hughes - and on top of that, seeing my book face-out. That's an incredible thrill that can't be put into words.
B2M: Do you have a favorite poem that you have written? If so, will you share it with us?
MARCUS: My favorite all-time piece is actually the four-part "Little Colored Boys" series included in Songs, but people have always taken a certain shining to "Still Shivering":
fueled by two years
of passion burning
with the heat of three
suns, I was drawn to her
like a moth to four flames,
with her beauty of five
seraphim so overwhelming that
I begged six times
just for her navel,
when she quenched my soul's
insatiable thirst by drowning
me in an ecstasy deeper than
the seven seas combined as
she spread herself like
a spider across my body
gripped me in eight
separate places and made
nine different kinds
of love to me at once,
ten days -
I repeat -
ten days later
lying naked, shriveled, and alone
in the wet spot.
B2M: So when can readers expect your next book?
MARCUS: My next book will be released next year, and it'll be my second collection of poetry. I'm also working on my first novel, which will be out in mid-2008, and a collection of short stories due out the same year; I'm always working on something, so the moss hardly ever has a chance to grow under my feet.
B2M: Ten years from now what do you hope readers will be saying about Marcus Harris and his books?
MARCUS: I remember back in the year 1999, there were celebrations all over Russia commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Aleksandr Pushkin, the great Black Russian poet that dominated the literary scene there before his untimely death at the age of 33. Reporters were going all through the streets, visiting people in bakeries, hair salons, open air markets, and all kinds of other places, and countless folks that they interviewed would quote lines and lines of Pushkin's works from memory, it'll be something else to have folks doing that with my works ten years from now.
Marcus, we look forward to reading more of your work. We encourage you to continue writing poems that will stir the souls of readers.
Thanks for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Pease be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
MARCUS: It was truly my pleasure, and I wish you and everyone at Books2Mention the best of continued success, as well.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
You are welcome to visit the website of Marcus Harris at www.marcusharris.net.
Books by Marcus Harris include:
Songs In Search of A Voice