Today we’d like to introduce you to Nate Mask.
Nate, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I did theater in high school and always loved performing. When I was about 16, I found Tupac’s book of poems, “The Rose That Grew From Concrete,” and started writing poems every now and then as a way to process my emotions (or impress girls, depending on the situation). As I got older, writing was something I always came back to as a means of making sense of my feelings and the world around me. There was a while where I was really struggling with depression and would write poems and post them on Facebook, and usually got pretty good feedback on them.
Eventually, I hit a real low point, and my sister came to me like, “You need to stop posting all these sad-ass poems on Facebook, and go read out loud somewhere.” I went to Java Monkey Speaks in Decatur that next Sunday and was just blown away by the poems I heard. I got hooked and kept coming back every week, and eventually, my poems started getting better. I started competing in their Second Sunday Slams (and getting destroyed), and people like Mistafunn, Theresa Davis, and Tawny Powell saw potential and kind of took me under their wings. I competed in my first regional team slam at the Southern Fried Poetry Slam in Greenville, SC in 2014, and in 2015 made the Java Monkey Slam Team and competed at the National Poetry Slam for the first time. I have competed at Nationals every year since then, most recently with the Art Amok Slam Team in Chicago, where we were the 2018 Group Piece Champions.
Starting in January of 2018, I went on my first nationwide tour alongside my good friend and fellow Atlanta poet Ryan J under the name “Nobody Likes Us, But We’re Here Anyway.” We did over 40 shows all across the country, and even a couple in Canada. It was a great adventure, and now, I’m at the point of just trying to figure out what’s next for me.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I am a poet, storyteller, and spoken word artist. I enjoy writing, but nothing compares to being on stage and performing for a good crowd. I try to use humor to draw people in and then sneak a more serious message in there. I’ve always been someone who used comedy as a coping mechanism, so I think that definitely shows in my work. I also pride myself on being relatable, whether I’m telling a story about my own experiences or trying to craft a metaphor in a poem. I may not use the most flowery language or extravagant metaphors, but I take pride in staying true to my voice and being able to connect to almost any audience.
My inspiration often comes from either trying to make sense of my own mental health and emotions or something that is pissing me off in the world. I try to ask the audience questions to help them reach their own conclusions instead of just telling them how I think they should feel – whether I’m successful in that or not, I’m not sure, but that’s the goal. I also try to tackle a variety of subjects, ranging from relationships, mental health, and self-love, to politics, gentrification, social media, and traffic. I never want to feel like I’m writing about the same thing over and over again.
The main thing I want people to take away from my work is to be entertained. I want to make people laugh, but I also want to make them think. I think it’s important to be able to laugh at the world around us, ’cause there’s a lot of funny shit out there, but if we’re laughing in ignorance, that just seems like a waste to me.
What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
I think success in poetry and spoken word can come in a lot of different ways. Winning slams, booking features, touring, performing for large crowds, selling merchandise at shows, self publishing, getting published, viral videos, endorsement deals, tv appearances, being able to raise your asking price for doing shows are all ways to measure success – which can be nice because you can feel reassured by one aspect, while still having another to strive for. The thing that always makes me feel like I’m doing something right though, is when I’m out somewhere and someone I don’t know stops me and says something like, “Hey, you do poetry. I’ve seen you perform. You’re dope!” That’s a pretty cool feeling, even if it is a little awkward.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I have videos featured on the “Homegrown Poetry” YouTube channel, as well as a few other places online. I am usually at Java Speaks on Sunday nights, and Art Amok Slam every first Tuesday at Red Light Cafe. Other shows and features are usually posted on my social media. I can be followed on Instagram at @n8maskpoetry and on Twitter at @n8mask, and liked on Facebook at “Nate Mask Poetry.” My chapbooks and other merch can be purchased on my website (which is currently under construction, but will be back up soon) at www.natemask.wix.com/poetry.
- Website: www.natemask.wix.com/poetry
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @n8maskpoetry
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/natemaskpoetry
- Twitter: @n8mask
Grace Kelly Photography, RJ Owens, HomeGrown Poetry