Following my fantastic meeting with Mutle, today I had the pleasure of speaking to Michael Cirelli, the new york based urban poet, in anticipation of his performance this Saturday at Takeover Cardiff.

Michael has come to Cardiff fresh out of an integral role in Urban Word NYC – a youth poetry organisation giving teens the chance to speak up for themselves through spoken word, poetry and hip hop.

The organisation provides workshops, events and live performances to the teens of NYC, bringing literacy to the forefront of youth culture.

This Saturday he will do a similar thing, working with the talented folk down at Wales Young People’s Laureate – I’m really excited to see what he has planned for Takeover!

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?

A: I am the Executive Director of an incredible youth poetry organisation in New York called Urban Word NYC. My poetry is inspired by the passion and bravery of the youth I get to work with, and I’m most interested in approaching subject matter that doesn’t usually seem “fit” for poetry.

Q: What led you to become a poet?

A: For me, it was the need for an outlet to express myself, which sounds cliché, but also it is the challenge of writing poems based on atypical subject matter, poems about lesser known heroes, poems that help me honor, or praise, or forgive…

Q: What is the inspiration for your poetry – do you have a particular process when writing it?

A: I am a proponent of consistency. It is important for me to have a time when I like to engage my writing practice, and ALWAYS a conceptual body of work that I am contributing to that drives my inspiration.

Q: Is the subject matter of your work varied, or does it stick to a particular theme?

A: I write about all types of things. My previous books have dealt with race, ethnicity, music, food, and of course honoring my family and where I come from. My work almost always sticks to a theme when I am compiling a book. Right now I am completing a book of poems inspired by the Qur’an entitled The Bee.

Q: Why did you want to get involved with TOC?

A: I love working with youths, as well as engaging with different cultures. I also want to share my view that poetry is for everyone and it can be an incredible space for personal and emotional growth, as well as a place to cultivate and develop creativity.

Q: What do you believe the relevance of events like TOC is to the arts community?

A: It validates the importance of poety, and champions the dire need for youth voices to be heard!

Q: Have you worked alone with your work for TOC, or collaboratively?

A: I have had the incredible honor of leading workshops with Wales Young People’s Laureate, Martin Daws, who is a great poet and incredible poetry educator.

Q: What do you hope to get out of your work with TOC?

A: I hope that this work will inspire more opportunities for youths to have a platform to share their stories, to inspire others with the power of their bravery, and to encourage a culture of poetry and youth voice.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance?

A: Saturday’s performance will be a celebration of the youth poets we have worked with, and a showcase of their voices, their representational power in their communities, as well as their relationship to Cardiff. It is an honour to have worked with them and I am looking forward to seeing them rightfully perform on a big and official stage.

To take a look at the work Michael does with Urban Word NYC, have a look at their website.

Find out more about Wales Young People’s Laureate here.


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