By Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
Often times poets and the poetry they write are seen as overly serious and dramatic. Makeem White, a freshman at Duquesne University, lacks that overly dramatic aspect to his work and favors a lighter and more jovial approach to his poetry. His work ranges from short stories to poems to memoirs to fiction. Makeem recently released his first poetry book, titled “Let Your Emotions Explode,” where he explores bad pick up lines, the Christmas Ball and free hugs among many other ideas.
Q: What made you decide to create this book?
A: So, eight months ago I wrote a poem at the talent show for orientation. It was very last minute, wrote it in about ten, twenty minutes. I read to them at the audition, they liked it. Then I received an email saying that I wouldn’t be in the talent show. But the next morning I showed up to the Union Ballroom and I met up with the leaders again and they told me, Hey, we liked your poems so much, we’re going to have you in the talent show. Which I thought, That’s great! Then the actual performance I did at the talent show… it was very well-received, to my surprise. They thought I did a really great job; they liked what I wrote. Then the next night there was a party at the Marriott Hotel I think, it’s close to here. I was bored at the party, so I just started to write poems. A young lady, by the name of Meghan Dunbar, noticed me writing and I showed her what I wrote. She liked it and we became friends from there, and then she told me that one day I could become a famous writer. Which gave me a lot of motivation, and from there I just became a lot more consistent with writing, nearly everyday or when I can… Here [at Duquesne University] I have a lot more flexibility with writing, and so I can just write what I want and have any context. I really decided that yeah, I could compile this into a book and make this my own. So I did think about that for a few months and just wasn’t sure when I would be ready to do it till February where I handpicked 30 pieces I wrote over the last several months to put in the book.
Q: What is your favorite poem in the book and why?
A: One of my personal favorite poems in the book is “The Genesis of Picking Up Lines.” It was a poem I wrote way back in August and it’s a poem about really bad pick up lines. I thought it would be really funny, and I read it to some of my friends back then. They thought it was great, they coined this really bizarre term called ‘fertilize the garden.’ It can mean so many things and I incorporated that line into a play that my group and I are working on for a theater class. So it’s called the “Avid of Romance,” and I’m also making that into a short story as well. The whole “fertilize the garden” thing is in there. The whole group thought that line was hilarious, they couldn’t help but crack up when hearing it, or reading it, so it’s definitely the “Genesis of Picking Up Lines.”
Q: How long have you been writing poetry, and how did you get started?
A: Okay, so it goes back to even farther than high school, more like middle school. So seventh grade there was a poetry project that the class had to work on and then we submit our poems for a book called “The Gold Edition,” and that was way back in 2010. I can’t even really remember what was in that book, but I did receive something in the mail months after I finished up seventh grade, and I found out that the poem I wrote for that made it into the “Gold Edition.” It [the poem I wrote] was called “Untitled,” and I unfortunately lost that poem so it kinda sucks.
Q: What is your biggest inspiration for your work?
A: The biggest inspiration for my work, honestly, it’s me! I don’t really have any favorite poets to go by, I just write my own material, so I’m a creative kid. It comes from me, and not from them. There was one book that I picked up on Saturday that picked up my eye. The book is called Dessie Bey’s “Mental Masturbation: Quit Playing with Yourself.” That title alone really caught my eye and I read a bit of it so far, and it’s really good. The subject material is pretty serious; it’s really written well. As for your question I just go with what’s on the top of my head and what I actually see. Things are based on my life.
Q: I understand you drew the artwork on the cover as well, do you think that drawing and poetry work well together?
A: I think that poetry and drawing can go hand-in-hand. I think they can work pretty well, though the cover work doesn’t really have much to do with the material within the poems. Some people did mistake it for a comic book. I can understand that, the cover work does look like it can be on a comic book, but in the future I’ll probably make artwork that is a lot more contextual to the actual material in the books and having the artwork and the poems within it make something really good.
Q: Any plans in the future for other work or current work?
A: So earlier I did say that I would work on a short story called the “Avid of Romance,” and I finished the second chapter to that. It’s a big work in progress, so still making lots of changes from the manuscript my group and I wrote. It’s an adaptation of an adaptation. I wrote a short story called “Love Hurts” right before Valentine’s Day, and it had a pretty dark ending to it. The main character was nearly heartbroken, and I showed it to my group and we decided to make a play based around that. We all decided to change the ending to a more optimistic one. Yeah, the heartbreak is still there, but something better comes along the way. So I’m taking elements from both the manuscript as well as the original short story that I wrote to create the final version. Much later down the line there will be a sequel to “Let Your Emotions Explode,” and it’s going to be titled “The Semester Strikes Back.” People have asked me to incorporate more art based around the people I drew around the cover, well, that is going to happen for “The Semester Strikes Back.” I’ll also incorporate another short story or two within it. It’ll kinda be more than just a poetry book. People actually liked the comics I drew to my surprise, so I’ll include a new comic hand drawn by myself.