Poet Nate Marshall on High Fidelity Poetry and Blitzing

Nate Marshall, author of Wild Hundreds, winner of UPP’s Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, talks about his love for Chicago’s South Side, hip-hop culture’s influence on his work, and fantasy football.

UPP: You are very passionate about the South Side of Chicago, as evidenced in Wild Hundreds, in various interviews and on social media. How would you explain that passion?

NM: The South Side is a beautiful place. It can be a hard and complicated place but those are the most rewarding loves. It’s like what Algren says about loving Chicago “you may well find lovelier lovelies but never a lovely so real.”

UPP: How would you describe your work, in terms of an intersection of poetry, rap and hip hop?

NM: I think my poetry is a direct descendant of the hip-hop culture I came up in. I think you see it all over my work, from the sense of rhythm to the fidelity to telling difficult truths to the way a phrase can bend in small delightful ways. Those are all things I learned in hip-hop and I continue to explore on the page.

UPP: You are very involved with young writers, such as the Young Chicago Authors. What drives you to be a mentor?

NM: I feel like I need to be a mentor. It is the most rewarding work I can do and it’s work that saved my life as a young person. I wouldn’t be living up to the time that people before me put into me if I wasn’t giving that back to the young folks coming behind me.

UPP: You keep a very busy schedule! How do you stay energized?

NM: I’m not sure how I stay energized. I don’t sleep a lot. I should sleep more probably. I think I’m so excited by all the work I’m doing that those things drive me. And I’m excited by the moment we’re in politically, artistically, and culturally. I have to be around to be a part of it.

UPP: What’s this we hear about you being in charge of a fantasy football league?

NM: Me and a few of my homies have had a fantasy football league the last few years. Mostly it’s poets and teaching artists. The league is called “Those Who Can’t Teach Blitz.” It’s a good way to unwind for me. It’s nice to have things you can invest time in purely as a recreation. It’s important.

 

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