Nathan Black from Greenville, North Carolina, ECU graduate in English, has worked for various magazines and publications. Writes works of poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories. Focuses on self-discovery, self-love, religion in the modern world, inspiration, conquering adversities, hatred of pop music, love of pop culture, spiritual awakenings, and love of Sunday mornings. Lives with his wife, Christina and their two cats, Zoey and Yeti.
Sherri: Nathan, it’s good to have you at my virtual café. I read that you are a slam poet. I have had the opportunity to experience slam poetry and it is fantastic. Tell us how you got into it and what slam poetry is.
Nathan: Slam poetry like poetry itself is hard to describe with any solid definitions. Like good art, you know it when you see it, or in this case, hear it. With any art form there are movements amongst the community of Slam poets that give some distinctions to it. The use of cadence, its qualities as a speech more than verse, more akin to free verse, possibly even divorced from what most would consider a poem all together and instead can sound like a rant or prose poetry. There is a very common connection to social justice issues and soci-economic woes. I suppose because I am entrenched in these subjects that is what led me to poetry to begin with. The call of poetry was magnetic for me and so I sought out what it meant for me and what I could gain from it. I went to ECU for English with a concentration in creative writing and so while I was there, I found the spoken word group, Word of Mouth (WOM). It was through them that I got into the challenge and love of writing slam poetry. Even though I will write in this style, I do write prose and more traditional poems as well, but I have found the performance aspect of slam poetry the most engaging and the shot of life that poetry needs in our modern day. Much like rap, I find the most commonality between rhyming verse of hip-hop and slam poetry above all other styles.
Sherri: You are a poet, an author and a screenwriter, that’s a lot of hats and takes different talents. What is the biggest challenge when switching genres and what does each offer the other? What have you learned from one genre that you use in the others?
Nathan: That is a big question. Each of these styles offers different things. Different ways of expression but it boils down to what you are trying to express and how do you feel that message will be best expressed? Sometimes the dialogue of conversation can bring it about in a screenplay. Sometimes the full development of story and mood through a novel is the most grand way. But sometimes a few lines of well placed verse are all you need. And sometimes you write hundreds of pages just to get to that one sentence that sums it all up. There are many ways to get that and as a writer I have tried to search as many as I could without forgetting what it was, I was trying to say to begin with.
Sherri: You have a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, what do you believe has been the best thing you learned in college and what have you had to un-learn as a published author and poet that you were taught in school?
Nathan: ECU and Pitt Community College gave me everything in a way. Yes, I did the work but these school gave me the ground to take off from. It gave me the experience to express myself openingly. The teachers guided without restricting me, but at the same time they pointed out what needed to be improved and what I could do better in, and I really think we all need someone like that. Creative writing isn’t a concrete direction but a lifetime of development and a continuous revision that never ends. There are no right or wrong answers, only the product that either yields something or brings something that could be redone. There are no mistakes. I love that. I can think of no other school of learning that can give this kind of confidence, but that is my experience and my mindset. For someone else this might be completely different. But my years at university gave me everything, from confidence to perspective, to insight on the craft, to clarity of purpose, to enhanced empathy. It didn’t help me learn how to navigate the literary world or how to publish a hundred percent, but it did give suggestions and that has been useful. I don’t think there was anything I needed to unlearn from this period because it really only gave me a chance to learn myself and I wouldn’t want to undo that.
Sherri: Are you traditionally published, small press or independently published? What do you feel are the pros and cons in each?
Nathan: I am self-published, although I have been published in magazines and small presses. There are benefits to both. One: having traditional publishing means you don’t have to worry about the hard parts which I believe are advertising and promoting. Two: the writing part is the blissful work that comes with the job. The marketing, finance, and promoting part can make you feel like a hack and a second-rate Barnum and Bailey, but when it pays off it really feels like a win. I can’t fault self-publishing for that, but it is nice when someone does the heavy lifting for you. Because I have been playing music in bands around Greenville for more than ten years, a college town, I’ve grown accustomed to being in front of crowds and putting myself out there so it’s not such a struggle for me but promoting always seems like such a feat when you first get started. I love it all the same.
Born in 1984 in Augusta, Georgia, Nathan Black was born in a military hospital at Dwight David Eisenhower Medical Center before he and his parents moved to Indiana where his parents joined a Christian learning academy. They moved to Greenville 1987 where Nathan would be raised. Here he went to JH Rose High School, Pitt Community College, and eventually ECU where he got his degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. In that time he wrote articles for Mixer, G-Vegas Magazine (WhereUParty), REBEL, and ENC Community Magazine. While at ECU he joined Word of Mouth (WOM) as one of their slam poets and competed around the state winning contests with the group against UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, and other schools. He has written three books of poetry, Where The Breeze (2016), The Frozen Garden (2017), and The Things We Have Lost (2022). Apart from this, he has written a stage play, Weathermen, a small book of short stories, Portals (2018), and a novel, Sparrow’s Fall (2019). In this time he has made it a centerpiece of his life and has involved himself in other writing circles and poetry groups across the state. Nathan continues to write and perform to this day. His new novel The Knight of Red and White is set to be released in early winter 2022.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Nathan Black, come visit us at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th, 2022, 1 to 4 pm. Nathan is one of the 35 featured authors at this event.