If you have witnessed Alyea Pierce perform then you would know that she takes her craft seriously and presents her words with intense passion. I’ve known her since my high school days and she would always captivate me with her spoken word performances. She is steadily building up a reputation for being a truly gifted and hardworking artist whom future looks quite promising. She has already performed at sixty Rutgers events and is sure to keep the number rising in the future. American Beau decided to interview Alyea about her passions, upbringing, and poetry. Read below!
When did you first start reciting spoken word/poetry and what was your inspiration behind starting?
Since I was a little girl I was always enticed by the arts, but would only perform for myself. My first writing experience was actually forced by my seventh grade English teacher, and I hated it. After being forced to free write for 15 minutes every day, poetry began to fly out of my pen and from there poetry slams started coming into my eye all the time. My inspiration was the fact that I could never speak my true feelings. I always held a lot in as a child, and never knew how to voice my words… so my motivation was that I must speak for those who can’t.
Who are the main poets you like and/or look up to? What characteristics/mannerisms from their poetry and performances do you take to further your artistry?
Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, and many spoken word artists (too many to say) are who I look up to. All of them are so special in the way that they write and give me an entirely new perspective on how to write. I have watched Def Poetry and many other Youtube videos, gone to many workshops at Urban Word in NY, and watch many Youtube videos over again to analyze the style of mannerisms I like.
How has being from Franklin, NJ or New Jersey in general molded you as an artist? How has attending Rutgers furthered your connections in the performing arts realm?
Rising from Franklin/ NJ has showed me how strongly passionate I am about this career. When you are from the suburbs of Jersey and most poetry engagements are in Newark/ NY, it puts your love to the test at a young age. I have sprinted to make poetry slams on time, got lost on subways, and have cried but all of it has only showed me just how passionate I am about this. Also, coming from Franklin, especially the suburbs of Franklin has made me face the truth….I am not hood, or from the streets (Waka Flocka song bumping in the background). So, I always have tried to be honest in that way as well.
Attending Rutgers has been a blessing for my art. The connections and support that I have from everyone has made me thankful beyond words. I have performed at over 60 Rutgers events and the number is still growing. I am so thankful for everyone allowing me to be the truth teller that I am.
When was your first performance? How have your performances changed, aesthetically and personally from your first performance?
(Laughing) I really challenged myself with my first real performance when I was thirteen years old and auditioned for the New York Knicks Poetry Slam. I moved around a lot, and yelled…a lot. There were no dynamics to my pieces. I performed the infamous black poem! (Laughing again) I think every black writer has to go through the black righteous stage, and thank god I went through it quickly and got it out of my system. I have much more challenging pieces now which relate to EVERYONE’S struggle versus singling out one race for their flaws.
Judging from your live performances, I would say that emotions from past/present relationships and love have created a great amount of your poetry. Is this true?
(Laughing) “My pain is another person’s therapy session”…What poet doesn’t use past relationships as motivation for a masterpiece. There are many topics that I love to touch on and challenge myself with, but love…everyone can relate to. We all strive for love, at all ages, at all moments in time, in some shape or form. Love is our drive for living and that is why I take from past relationships, and fairytales. It brings all of this figurative language, and years of attempting to master poetics back to its origin. It reminds me that I am a truth teller. I am human.
Your performances are very animated and include expressive mannerisms. Are you like this off-stage or is the “expressive and out going” version of Alyea strictly for performance?
The stage allows me to unleash my inner actress. My performances are the bits of Alyea that very few people see, even the people closest to me. If I had a dramatic name like Beyonce’s SashaFierce, I would definitely come up with one, but oh well! =) As outgoing and animated as I am, I am a very “to myself” kind of person and quiet, which is one of the reasons why I originally began writing. I felt as though I had no voice and no one was listening, so the mic, the stage, the audience…all of it combined, is my diary.
When do yourself having the greatest spurts of creativity? Do you always write down your lyrics or do you often find yourself keeping them in your head?
Literally, poetry can be written out of anything. That’s why I love it, there are no amazing bursts of creativity (sitting on the Rutgers bus on a Friday night is inspiration.) However, I will say that sitting in a silent room by yourself, is great for creativity if I must give an answer because you can only face yourself. All you have in a room by yourself, is yourself. You have your regret, your love, your anger, your tears, your thoughts. So, that is a great way to truly write an honest piece of work.
Would you like to make poetry/spoken word your main career?
YES! I am an entrepreneur. I am a business woman who does what she loves for a living. Poets can’t sit in cubicles. I have known that this is what I wanted to do for a living since I was 14…I can’t stop now. I am built for the stage and the page. I am a motivational poet and spoken word artist, a public speaking and poetry coach/mentor and I would not change a thing.
What poetry piece of yours describes you best and has the most emotional connection with you?
The original piece that describes me best was my newest piece entitled “Beethoven’s Last Song.” This piece is a compilation of poetry, sign language, and drama. It shows my growth as a poet content wise, and is probably one of the most honest poems I have ever written. This piece stands for more than speaking up for autism, but it is for an 18 year old man who is absolutely amazing at the grand piano and personally by not even trying. The more we try, the more we do not. All we have to do IS do….that is what he taught me.
What performance of yours was your most rewarding? Which performance was the most challenging?
The most rewarding and most challenging performance I have ever had was when I had the opportunity to grace Broadway’s New Amsterdam stage as a finalist (top 12) in the New York Knicks 2011-2012 Poetry Slam. I auditioned twice for this slam when I first started writing (ages 13 and 14) and only made it to semis each time. I took five years off from competing in that realm to build up my writing style, and gain confidence in order to make it to the NY Knicks finals, and perform my truth on an amazing stage. There were many all-nighters, putting homework aside in order to practice my pieces, but when you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, that is when you are ready to fully take the opportunity before you.
What piece of yours connects with audiences you’ve performed for the best?
All of my Love poems seem to connect most with my audience best. I believe when Evangelia Psarskis featured on one of my poems and did a rendition of Sara Bareillis’ and Ingrid Michaelson’s, “Winter Song”. Her voice is one of the purest sounds I have ever heard, she really makes a sinner believe in heaven again. I was honored to have her perform with me at Jazz and Java last year. The crowd absolutely loved her, and our duet really hit our audience! GO LOOK AT IT ON YOUTUBE! lol
Do you find it hard to accept criticism? What was the most rewarding comment someone has given you?
When I was younger I used to be very protective of my words. When you are giving yourself to a page and someone critiques it and tells that person that they could fix this and that. It hurts…Poems are like your baby. They are a part of you. They are you. However, as I got older, I now understand that criticism is necessary for evolution and growth. When I show a person my piece for the first time I normally have a disclaimer, “This piece will never be perfection, but I appreciate your opinion. Please tell me where you become confused, and please tell me where you feel the most.” The most rewarding comment someone has given me was from a first time poet. She said “Thank you. You are my inspiration. If it wasn’t for you, I would not have touched that stage.”
How does your major help with your craft?
I major in Interpersonal Communication with a double minor in English and Linguistics. All three of these areas assist with how I communicate, and how it is received. That is what poetry is, and these major/minors only help nurture my skills further.
What else do you like to do in your free time (hobbies)? Do you take them as serious as poetry?
In my spare time I like to sing, dance, cook, and eat…a lot. I come from a West Indian and Spanish background so I love to cook up some good food, then dance the calories off, and sing myself to sleep. =)
If you could help one part of the world through poetry, what part would you help? Why?
I would love to go back to Trinidad first and help the young adults in East Dry River. When I go back I see how the arts are not appreciated, you cannot achieve with the performing arts. It can only be a hobby. I want to change that. I want to create a school where students can create, and cultivate their art.
What can we expect from Alyea Pierce in the upcoming months? More performances? Poems?
In the upcoming months I will be performing at the Alpha’s Gold Soul Poetry Slam at the Rutgers Livingston Student Center, the MARKS Conference on Saturday Feb.16th, and I will be leading a poetry/ spoken word workshop at Kean University on the 28th of February hosted by the Tyler Clementi Foundation. I am currently in the process of writing my first book entitled Every Stranger Deserves a Poem and my website “SpuroftheWord.com”. I am extremely excited and beyond grateful for what is to come and what has come. I would not be who I am without each and every person I have encountered. We are all connected. Thank you.
Please Like, Support, Follow. You are a part of my journey. I could not be where I am without the support that I have received so far.
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Youtube: Alyea Pierce (WATCH AND REPOST!!! =) GET INSPIRED)- More videos to come!