Daily Serving: Ain HD

By Niki Esko

I will say this again and again: I am not a critic. When it comes to art, sometimes I feel that those who can do and those who can't criticize. Professional critics find work everywhere and anywhere; but this is a creative space. I want to share my experiences with the art; my interests are far from deciding whose writing is right or wrong and why.
However, Ain HD's book [If] Life's Rotten, Write to the Core is right and let me tell you why ;)

I first met Ain on myspace when she was networking through her vegan lifestyle page directed towards the black Hip-Hop community. She is a writer from Detroit and graduated with a degree in English/Professional Writing in Michigan. We stayed in touch for over a year and then I found out she was publishing a book. A few months later I bought it and now I'd like to share it with yall.

The work has a young & wise quality reminiscent of a writing notebook (in the journal practice & diary sense). I say this because one poem can be a flash of an early memory discussing love while the next page contains heavier observations of American society. Looking at my own notebooks, I find that some days I write outwards and other days I absorb the outward. From storytelling to socio-political examination, the pieces are accessible & direct. Besides the varying subject material on the pages, Ain allows the reader to write directly in the book with 25 writing prompts thereby engaging him or her with the poetry. The invite manifests the notebook.

To give you a sneak peak, here are the first and last lines from the poem "Katrina" that demonstrate Ain's style well:

"You were devastating
A modern Medusa
With a dangerous eye
The Cyclops that cried into the gumbo pot...

...No liquor to burn the throats of voodoo children
As bloated bodies drifted along a regrettable stream"

Here is the author in her own words:

What was your goal for [If] Life's Rotten...? Did you write the set of poems as a manuscript with a purpose or did they fall together under a purpose?
I think the pieces work together as a collection because I maintain my integrity as a writer. I started this collection over five years ago and never had the intention of putting together a book. These were all poems that had been taking up space on my computer. I put them all in one document, deleted some, revised others, and in no particular order, "[If] Life's Rotten" came together.

Explain how you found poetry.
Hip-Hop was definitely my first influence. Even before I knew the names of notable poets and literary artists, I was studying the lyrics of Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, and Tupac. I started off writing rhymes over Hip-Hop instrumentals. After I realized that I didn't have the gift of flow, I started transforming those thoughts into poetry.

Which musicians inspire your thoughts and poetry? Why?
I'm inspired by a ton of musical artists, Talib Kweli, Nas, Nina Simone, Andre 3000, Micah Dalton, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu are especially lyrical.

Which writers inspire[d] you?
Toure is amazing, he writes from the heart when it comes to journalism and defies the "rules." He also has a great novel called "Soul City." So I'm inspired by the way he crossed genres. I'm a poet and novelist, but I also write for SchemeMag. com. Toure is a great model for me when it comes to being versatile.
When it comes to poetry, I have to be honest in saying that I don't read much of it, Langston Hughes is by far my favorite poet, but I prefer spoken word artists, like Saul Williams, Last Poets, Black Ice, Jessica Care Moore and others.

What are you currently reading?
I'm reading "Never Drank the Kool-Aid" by Toure. It's a collection of his mag features and essays.

Can you explain a little about your process?
I can't say I have a sole process. I keep a notepad with me at all times. Sometimes a poem comes to me in pieces, other times they come all at once. I never push myself to finish a piece. I never stare blankly at a sheet of paper or drive myself crazy trying to drum up concepts for poems. I write when the words strike me, which is why my work is so sincere.

How much 'formal' training did you get before college?
Throughout grade school and high school, I was into everything you can think of. Karate, dance, art lessons, theater, volunteering and sports. I never took any writing lessons outside of my creative writing class in high school, and I never wrote with the intent of sharing. It wasn't until my 4th year of college, that I decided to pursue a career as a writer, changed my major, and here I am.

Do you think many creative writing classes limit or enhance original creativity?
I had a creative writing course in college that nearly put me to sleep. We were reading works of artists that I couldn't care less about and writing on topics that I had no interest in.

My creative writing course in high school was a little more flexible, and it introduced me to Pearl Cleage, for which I will always be thankful. It also gave me a platform to write without constraints and the opportunity to be critiqued openly.

In both cases, I appreciate the time spent. Both courses pushed me as a writer. I don't think anything can limit original creativity. Creativity is something no one can take from you. It can only be enhanced or rendered stagnant.

If possible, explain what writing is to you. Why is it so important?
Cliche time: Writing is my salvation. It really is. I've gone through a lot of career goals throughout the years, but writing has always remained a priority. It allows me gather my thoughts... because I'm honestly not that much of a talker, and hopefully, it allows me to affect change. We need that.

What advice do you wish to give to young or upcoming poets?
I'll leave folks with my favorite quote of the moment: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” - George Orwell

Creative expression is necessary because we're moving into harsher times. A revolution is in order, and it's important that people use the "tools" they've been blessed with to inspire change. Whether your tool is your voice, art, dance, or poetry, we need you now!

& there you have it.

My favorite poem is a short,"Saturday Car Conversation" on page 61. Check it out by previewing and buying her book here =)

Contact Ain or read her other works:
Ain HD Good Times in A Chowline
Ain HD Myspace

I'll finish this off with one of the book's writing prompts. Maybe yall could respond to Ain by completing it as a comment OR you could write it in your own notebook. I hope that yall get your daily serving of poetry with this book and enjoy.

Writing Prompt #13: Whether you believe in the hereafter, or dream of a far off Utopia, we all wish for a heaven on Earth. How would you describe your Nirvana?

"...common sense is fragile if you never dream"-
from "Fragility"


Thanks for the comment Niki. By the way, the name is Jack, not Stephen, close though, my last name is Stephens. Anyways. Good interview, I'll definitely write a blog post on The Mustard Seed ( http://www.mustardseedblog.com ) about your blog to let people know about it so they can check out some local artists.

By the way, are you considering going to the LFS retreat (which is not yet be finalized)? It would be good to go. You'd be able to add your input, share some stuff about yourself (such as your poetry and spoken word pieces if you wanted to) and get to see the inner workings of the org as well as getting to know more folks.


I really admire what you're doing. I find it awesome that someone who writes as well as you do, is willing to hunt down really talented people and post up an article about them on your blog. I'll be sure to check out some of these fine creative artists of your selection, because I know you've got good taste. You give really great interviews too. Keepin' it professional! I'd love to see us on here one day for one of our future projects or something. Maybe I can interview you too. Haha ;) Keep up the creative work Niki. Love ya!

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