Talking LOVE with activist & poet Michelle Antoinette Nelson

Our series on the ten poets you should know continues; next up is LOVE the poet.

Below is our interview with the Baltimore-based LOVE, originally published March 1, 2011. LOVE has performed the Esteem Awards in 2011 and 2013.

In 2015, she founded Brown and Healthy, a global initiative focusing on community engagement, strategic design, and wellness curation for people of color. LOVE has moderated panels for Labs at Light City and Afropunk; she has been featured in Forbes Magazine for her social justice work.

March 1, 2011, Authors of Note: LOVE the poet. This interview has been slightly edited for consistency.

Michelle Antoinette Nelson, professionally known as LOVE the poet, is a spoken word poet, performance artist, and author. She is a member of the Punany Poets, an erotic poetry performance troupe that has been featured on HBO’s Real Sex. Love is the founder of justlovepoetryink LLC, facilitating her “Live Lyric” creative writing workshop.

PrideIndex was pleased to have an opportunity to talk with LOVE about “Black Marks on White Paper,” her latest collection of poetry and to get the back story on how she got her name.

PrideIndex (PI): What was the first poem you ever wrote? Under what circumstances did you first perform it in front of an audience?

LOVE (LV): The first poem I wrote was about the day my sister and I went to live with my mother. When my parents separated, my sister and I stayed with my father for about six months, but it was best for us to be with our mother, so we decided to go live with her. It was the saddest day because my father followed us as far as he could; walking behind the car, he was in tears. I will never forget that day; it was very difficult to deal with, so I wrote about it, and it came out as a poem.

My first performance in front of an audience was the 5th grade talent show, LOL. My friends and I choreographed a dance routine and had a fantastic time. From that day on I knew I was supposed to be on stage, but I didn’t write my first poem until a year later.

PI: How did you adopt the name LOVE the poet?

LV: I acquired the name LOVE in college. I used to host a poetry night in the residence hall because I was a Resident Assistant. I would make the audience snap and say love after each performer (it was extremely cliché, and I thought it was hilarious), and when I would walk across the yard, people would snap at me and say “love” when they saw me.

So when I needed a stage name for a slam I would be in, a friend suggested I use the name LOVE because everyone called me that anyway.

I later adapted a deeper meaning for my name and wrote about it in a piece called “My Purpose.”

PI: Name at least 3 artists most affected your artistic style?

LV: Erykah Badu, Gill Scott Heron, and Langston Hughes.

PI: How would you describe your poetic style?

LV: Well I am a performance poet, so I write a lot of confessional and narrative pieces. I write about my experiences often because poetry has always been extremely therapeutic for me and I have found that expressing what I have been through reaches and helps so many other people. Narrative poetry is a great challenge for me and I love carefully crafting a story utilizing poetry.

PI: Tell us all about your collection of poems, “Black Marks on White Paper.” How long did it take to write it and what were the thought processes behind it?

LV: “Black Marks on White Paper” is a poetic memoir that deals with my experiences as a distinct contrast to the foundation of our Western society. This book wrote itself but it took me about a year and a half to put it together once I focused on it.

I am black, gay, and a woman born in America, and thus, my work reflects what I have seen and experienced as the complete opposite of what and who is deemed “the norm” in America. Sometimes, my perspective may be just as “normal” as anyone else’s, or it could be completely to the left of the general consensus.

This book is divided into three distinct sections… the griot, the woman, and the warrior, and through narrative and confessional pieces, I uncover the love, joy, and pain of others while dealing with my personal triumphs and demons.

“Black Marks on White Paper” is available via my online store at www.lovethepoet.com and in e-book form for Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Sony Readers.

PI: I recall seeing you perform as one of the Punany Poets featured on HBO’s Real Sex a few years ago; what was that experience like? What are the Punany Poets up to today?

LV: The experience was terrific… being a part of the troop is really challenging and fun all at the same time. We have a loyal fan base, and they always receive our work well. The Punany Poets are currently on tour hitting venues across the country.

PI: What projects are you currently working on?

LV: I am currently working on marketing and promoting my book. Since it is still very new, I have devoted much of my time and resources to getting trade reviews, setting up readings, and ensuring the books get into people’s hands [smile].

PI: Are you in a committed relationship, single, or not looking for anyone now?

LV: I am married to my poetry[smile].

PI: What is your biggest misconception about you or your work?

LV: The biggest misconception people have of my work at this point in my career is that I only do erotic poetry. Two years ago, I became a cast member of the Punany Poets, a sex education poetry troupe that became famous in 2001 on HBO’s Real Sex. I have been dubbed the “Lesbian Laureate” of the troupe. Upon becoming a member I began to write erotic poetry, which is a fun way to get people who don’t necessarily like poetry (or who have never been exposed to it) to enjoy it and ultimately want to hear and read more on all topics.

I am a poet who writes erotic poetry, not an erotic poet. I believe that as multifaceted human beings we should embrace every part of our lives as something to celebrate and to understand fully, even our sexuality. As an artist, it is almost inconceivable to ignore such an important part of adult life.

PI: What do you like to do when you are not performing?

LV: When I am not performing I enjoy teaching poetry classes to adults. I run an artist development program for performance poets (mainly) that helps them reach their full potential with their craft. I conduct full classes, workshops, and individual artist development. I also like to read, play my guitar, and spend time with friends and family.

PI: What’s next on the horizon?

LV: Ah the beautifully vast horizon! I plan on touring it for a few months and I do believe Chicago is on my list for August (maybe sooner).  I am also working on putting together a nationwide book signing tour, and I have a great interest in traveling and performing overseas soon as well. I will be posting all upcoming events on my official website www.lovethepoet.com tune in!

About Michelle

Michelle is a certified Behavior Change Specialist, strategist, writer, artist, and connector who bridges community, creative practice, and wellness. To learn more visit MichelleNelson.com.

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 1: Don’t Underestimate her Poetic Prowess Brooke Gerbers

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 2: Her Storie: An interview of spoken words’ leading lady Storie Devereaux

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 3: Sunshine of my life, A conversation with Sunshine Lombre

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 4: Introducing the Millennial Poet named B.

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 5: Fantastic Voyage: One-on-one with Motown Poet Urban Legin’d Obasaki

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 6: Just call her Dark N-Lovely, An interview of Chicago Poet Tarnynon Onumonu

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 8: Poetry In Motion: An interview of Goddess Warrior

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 9: Ebony Stewart

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 10: Vision