Name: Nin Nubia Nekaba Livermore El
Nickname: Ninel Nekay
Hometown: Douglasville, Georgia
School: The School of Life and Adulting
Favorite Poet(s): Alicia Harris, Safia Elhillo and Carvens Lissaint
Fun Fact: “I’ve broken everything from my knees down at least twice.”
Q: Why Poetry?
Ninel Nekay: Growing up…I was told what I should do based on my intelligence. “Oh, you should be a lawyer. Oh, you should be a doctor, Oh you should be…” This, that, that. And nothing really felt like it belong to me; it always felt like it belonged to the dreams of my parents or the dreams of my colleagues. It wasn’t until I took a class with Theresa Davis on spoken word, that I realized I want to do this for the rest of my life — or something like it. So, I would say poetry, because nothing else made me feel even remotely as happy and humbled in my life.
Q: In the great scheme of things or life, where does poetry fit in?
NN: It fits in everywhere! Literally, I think about it all the time. Even when I’m not thinking of full poems, I’m thinking of lines, and I consider myself as writer instead of a poet. Poetry is very fluid, but I think when it comes to writing that covers all aspects of, you know, industry’s period… I think in lyrics, I think in lines, I think in sonnets. I just think what way.
Q: How or when did you find yourself as a poet?
NN: I was 17 going on 18 — that was a huge transition in my life, where I couldn’t [rely] on love to carry me through. I really had to…rely on my poetry to carry me through. That’s when my boyfriends left, my dad left and I was kinda alone. Poetry was all I had. So, I took all that time, going on 18, to figure myself out to hone my craft.
Q: Describe your writing routine or process.
NN: I don’t have one! (laughs) It just happens.
Q: When or where are you most inspired?
NN: This is so cliche, but either at home or outdoors. Nighttime — light a candle (laugh) … and just some music, and I can just go in. Dim lighting and just some tunes.
Q: Is there some consistent trademark or characteristic that you’ve discovered in your poetry?
NN: It’s all very honest poetry. I pride myself on just trying to be as real as possible and more real in each and every piece, so that I’m not staying in a comfort zone… I’m actually moving forward and growing to be more of myself.
Q: Your favorite poem you’ve written and why?
NN: I don’t have a favorite poem that I’ve written. All are like my children — some I dislike more than others, but there aren’t any I would reign my favorite.
Q: Outside of poetry, who are you, what do you?
NN: Well, I’m a sister. I’m a daughter. I’m very dutiful; I have many roles and hats. I’m a nanny… I’m a teaching artist and do poetry workshops. I write scripts. I chill with my friends. I am a-lot of this outside of poetry
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your talents and skills in life?
NN: I want to use my talents to actually heal people in a multitude of ways. I act — I don’t dance anymore, but I can (laughs)… I can kinda sing here and there. Imma start rapping — like I just want to be the female Gambino out here saving lives!
Q: Any special news, events or releases we should be excited for?
NN: Yes! Sept. 9 I will be having my “B is for Balcony” book release party [written after being crowned Atlanta’s Youth Poet Laureate 2016-17), at the Alliance Theater… might be selling t-shirts, It’s just gonna be a really good time … and it’s all surrounded this book.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share — advice, anecdotes — to young poets?
NN: Try not to be scared, or even if you are scared and fearful of something, just do it anyway, because something you’re scared of is the something that’s going to change you and change the people around you. I know poetry is a community, but at the end of the day, every community needs development, needs change, and that comes with people speaking up and doing the things make them feel fearful in the first place.
As told to Ogechi N. Ofodu, 19, the succeeding Atlanta Youth Poet Laureate 2017-18 .
Interested in Slam Poetry?
Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival is an annual slam poetry competition for poets ages 13 to 19. This year the festival will convene in the Bay Area, California, July 19-22.
Atlanta Word Works offers free poetry workshops during the school year at VOX, too.
Submit your own original work for publication by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.