A POEM IN WHICH I TRY TO PROCESS THE DEATH OF MAC MILLER…
When I say “I like the taste of alcohol,”
What I’m saying is…I like the feel of a
throat in smolder, of lightning swallowed,
a quick strike/shock therapy/Pain induced peace.
There are nights when I am too anxious
to sleep without a drink. Nights when I drown
myself to stop from drowning. Somehow,
picking the means makes the outcome feel
different. Rather a pool of liquor than
blood right? Rather a stupor than a suicide?
I’ve learned how to move around on fire,
I human torch/I ghost ride.
I drink spirits and swerve through lanes
like a soul passing. Mac say “I never met
somebody built perfectly.” Mac say
“dying from an overdose isn’t romantic” and I
guzzle more whisky. Mac dies. Supposedly, of
an overdose and I feel like I die with him.
They never tell you when you see yourself
in somebody you can also see yourself in their
coffin. Kirwyn tells me our fates aren’t connected
yet I can’t help but feel intertwined. A death helix.
Two adjacent parts spun around each other with
only our demons connecting us. And if we both
got the same demons and they ate him,
even in happiness, then how do I escape
being the next meal? I put on Swimming;
drink myself to sleep. It’s funny how ironic
life is: I see someone I care about die of
addiction and my addiction gets worse.
See a bottle turn a man into a parasite.
See a father drink himself into a divorce
in the mirror,
drinking my liver
Im Burning man/Sunspot/dying star.
I’m a dying star. What I’m sayin is…
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been alive.
I hate the fact I have so much love
around me and here I am in another
poem chasing after my own death,
trying to pry another bottle from my
own fingers, on another night I can’t
sleep, on another night I’m tryin not to drink.
But I guess that’s the point right.
That I am still
Enoch the Poet was born and raised on the north side of Wilmington, DE. He uses his art to address issues of Black mental health, the Black social condition in America and the multiple ways in which these two topics intersect. He teaches various workshops around the tri-state area geared towards exploring self and using poetry as a form of mental therapy and rehabilitation. In April of 2017 he earned a spot on the 2017 Philadelphia Fuze National Poetry Slam Team as well as won the title of 2017 Philadelphia Fuze Grand Slam Champion. He then went on to compete in the Individual World Poetry Slam competition where he ranked 28th in the nation. He’s had work published in various literary magazines such as Wusgood and Open Mind Quarterly and before the end of 2017 he also published his first full length book of poetry titled “The Guide to Drowning.”
"This poem comes from a very deep place for me. I’ve had a problem with alcohol since college but it honestly probably started before that. Alcoholism runs in my family, shit, I had my first drink when I was 7 years old. But college is where it really got out of control, especially after a bad break up I had my senior year, drinking became a crutch for me to deal with my depression. Through the years I developed such a high alcohol tolerance that I could be extremely drunk and almost no one would notice because I was able to maintain composure. Fast forward to 2018 and I found myself in a living situation where I was overexposed to alcohol and also overexposed to triggers for my depression. These two factors worked hand in hand to put me in a really dark place. Mac Miller specifically was an artist I really loved and I resonated with a lot of his music, especially the ways in which he addressed mental health and substance abuse in certain songs. When I found out he died it through me into an even deeper whole and I found myself drinking uncontrollably one night while hanging with my friends. I remember getting to a point where I knew I was at my limit but I decided to keep drinking because, honestly, I wanted to see if I would die. Luckily one of my good friends who I consider a brother noticed my behavior and took my cup away from me. The next morning I woke up feeling like complete shit and it really made me reevaluate some things because I had tried to kill myself the previous year and I told myself I would never put myself back in a space like that again and then here I was, the previous night trying to drink myself into a coffin. So from the moment I decided I wouldn’t drink anymore and I don’t know if I would have reached that point without Mac’s death affecting me in the way that it did. The next day after deciding to be sober I sat down and started writing this poem, the title is literally what the poem is, me trying to process Mac Miller’s death but also me trying to process how to deal with the fact that I at one point lost hope because I viewed me and Mac as very similar people. I remember thinking at one point if he didn’t make it then how will I?"
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Enoch the Poet:
So it’s funny. Technically I’ve been writing poetry since 8th grade, I used to draw a lot and wanted to be an animator until I was required to make a chapbook in my honors English class and then I discovered my love for writing. However, once I got into high school I started rapping and writing lyrics because I always used to freestyle and rap battle homies during lunch in middle school. Music became my main focus from high school and all through college and I kind of wrote poetry on the side until I started performing and slamming in Philly after I graduated college, once that started picking up I stopped rapping and solely focused on honing my skills as a poet. So I guess in a long winded way I’m saying I’ve been writing poetry since 8th grade lol.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
The first poem I ever read was one of my own, it was a poem I wrote in the 8th grade english class project I mentioned earlier. I don’t remember the title but it was about me seeing violence in my hood and how I was coping with that as a youth. My english class had a poetry slam and my classmates entered me in it without me knowing, that was the first poem I performed ever and seeing how people reacted to it and shared energy with me instantly changed something in me and writing became a passion for me in that very moment.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Most of my poetry knowledge is slam related. I didn’t read much poetry growing up and honestly until I became a part of the Philly poetry community I was pretty much my only reference for poetry or what a poem sounds like. I watch a lot of youtube and have been reading way more over the past 2 years and within that time period I really found a love for Porsha O. I find her work extremely impactful and necessary and it hits me in a way, whether it be written or performed, that I don’t experience in other works I’ve read from other poets. I have so many favorites from her but the most impactful one is probably “Rekia Boyd” because it made me start unpacking my privilege as a man within my community in ways that I hadn’t thought about before. I also really love Kirwyn Sutherland, he’s a great poet and actually a great friend to me as well. There’s a refreshing and restorative rawness to his work that literally makes you shake as you read or hear it because it’s so spot on. Those two I would say have been my biggest poetic influences and I don’t ever picture myself getting tired of their work. Oh, Rasheed Copeland is another one. I’d say they’re my top 3 poets I always come back to.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
My writing process is very very free form. I don’t have any specific rituals necessarily but I guess you could say I have certain practices or a certain pathology I follow. I mostly only write when I’m inspired to, if a concept comes to me I try to spend a few days thinking about it and processing through it. Sometimes I may start writing prematurely just to get thoughts out and then I’ll sit and think on my free write, and then other times I’ll think about a concept for a good 2 or 3 weeks before I actually sit down to write something. I try to never rush a poem, sometimes I write 2 or 3 at a time and other times I work on one poem for a month or more. I make sure to always write the poem first before I structure it, I find it easier to spill out and then condense it into form later unless I’m doing something like a golden shovel. I also make sure that while I’m writing I’m always saying my poem out loud to make sure everything flows properly and sounds right. Theres something about the actual performance of each poem during my writing process that helps me complete it.
This poem has a wonderful lyrical content to it. It’s no surprise to see you are well recognized for your Slam talents. Often Slam poems on the page have a distinctly “slam” quality to them and it can be obvious that they are meant to be heard and not read. This poem works well in both worlds, however, in a way I have only seen in Saul Williams work. Do you decide beforehand that a piece is meant to be a slam piece or to exist on the page? If so, how? Does the poem tell you as you are writing, or do you set out with that goal? Or does the thought even enter your head? Can you share with us any other poets you know of that can blend both worlds so effectively?
Personally I try to make all my poems work on both stage and page. I don’t like to box in any of my work to strictly operating in one medium so I try to write in a way that facilitates both. That’s why I say my poems aloud during my writing process because it helps me make sure that they translate in both spaces and that’s also why the form is the last thing I complete about the poem, that’s basically my way of making sure that even without the form or visual presentation, the poem itself can still hold its own. The two poets I mentioned earlier, Porsha O. and Kirwyn Sutherland are two poets who I would say blend both worlds effectively.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
Once I’ve completed the basic framework of the poem, which to me means I have everything down in a way that I’m happy with, I start to put the poem in form. I don’t always know what the form will look like, I kind of just let the poem speak to me and start playing around with the shaping and line breaks. Sometimes I go through three or four different configurations before I settle on one. I try to never force a poem into a shape, I like to be very natural and touchy feely with my work and if I choose to do a form that requires me to change the actual words of the poem then I do what’s necessary for what I’m feeling. Once the poem is shaped then I go back through and adjust any words or phrases that I feel like don’t help carry the reader on the journey of the poem. Put simply I write the poem, form the poem, then edit the poem.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Be inspired but don’t seek to sound like any specific poet, don’t worry about what is conventional poetry or what people tell you is necessary for performance or page or poetry in any medium. Always do what feels most natural to you and always write your truth. I tell every poet that I come in contact with not to worry about the polish of it all because that’s the easy part, the hard part is having the necessary conversations with yourself to be comfortable writing the hard poems, the poems that are always trying to come out that you hold back for whatever reason. Don’t fear your poetry, let it guide you and be as much of you as you can possibly be at all times.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Hmmm. That’s a good question. I’m not really sure actually lol. It’s just a feeling. When I feel like I’ve said everything I can say within any specific poem then I just stop adding to it. Then I perform it and if I perform it and it feels incomplete then I go back to it and add or take away depending on how I felt. I guess a poem being done to me all depends on how I feel after I perform it.
Any advice for poets working on their first full collection? What is different about the process of crafting the individual poem and putting them all together? Also, where can we get a copy of “The Guide To Drowning”?
I went about putting together The Guide to Drowning the same way I used to go about putting together albums when I made music. I pretty much wrote poems as I saw fit, wrote about 60 to 70 poems and then chose the ones that I felt like best aligned with the chosen concept for the book itself. Once I picked those poems I ordered them in a way that I felt like showed some sort of progression or underlying story and then once I got the table of contents down I read each one out loud to myself the same way I would listen to music once the tracklist was made and if something seemed like it didn’t flow properly or didn’t fit then I would adjust the order or possibly remove it completely. Finding the right order for the book was probably the most time consuming and stressful part of the whole process. Crafting an individual poem I feel like is so much about capturing a moment or creating an episode of a show and immersing someone in it whereas creating a collection is about creating an entire season of a show and immersing someone in it. I look at poems as a part of a world and collections of poems as complete worlds within themselves.