Inky Interview: Poet Adrian Mckenzie

Adrian McKenzie is a poet from Stoke-on-Trent, UK.

Please tell us about your poetry journey.

My journey began as a six-year-old kid that saw a rapper on Saturday morning television and was immediately fascinated by the way words fitted the drum pattern. Being a black kid in a suburban area, mum surrounded me with books as she wanted my work ethic and intelligence to overcome any racialised barriers. I was barely 10 years old when I became obsessed with the poem ‘Roman Wall Blues’ by W.H. Auden from one she’d bought. For the rest of my formal education I enjoyed English and creative writing but was never interested in poetry and hated literature analysis.

I was a people pleasing shy kid whose first love was music. Being raised in a church going household, I joined the local choir at 11 having dreamed about becoming a choir director and emulating my favourite gospel artists. Despite the ridicule I received for my voice, I left for university at 18 respected for my songwriting ability. It would be a place where my musical ambitions would peak. I went on to write for other singers and set up a gospel group that won regional awards.

Whilst at university I stumbled on spoken word during a search for rap battles and will never forget the awe of hearing ‘5 senses’ by renowned American poet Saul Williams. I would hone my style in online forums. Influences of battle rap and Saul can be found in my writing and performance to this day. I would be selected as one of the best up and comers by the local Poet Laureate within a few years of returning home to Birmingham. However, it took another move away to Stoke-on-Trent for me to become what I am now.

Can you share a poem with us and walk us through the idea behind it?

Scratches, cuts and breaks created plates
Waves across broken lines need no co-signs
Those with ears heard smiles
Hard times made hearts soft as vinyl
Stop, start continue for alignment
Its amazing we dance in silence as sound bites us
The bug nobody wants to squash or repel despite the danger of jezebels decibels
Just pile on the pylons so this soul train can never crash
We turn tables like bric a brac and from the crick and crack you can get with this or get with that
Pleasantries made relatives from battles that were stress relief
We pop locked our energies until joy thieves submerged
Lucifer son of the morning, we chased em out of earth

This piece could by summed up by the Bob Marley quote, “when music hits you feel no pain”. Like many of my poems, it is tightly packed with a few, if you know you know references.

It is rooted in the early origins and practices of hip hop which was founded by DJ Kool Herc. The DJ who would play cuts from different artists, scratching the record to create break beats. This is coupled with the idea of pain and I explore how we process music in spite of it.

Dance is referenced. When we dance it’s for us, others might join them even imitate things they like to share joy. Think weekend club nights. In hip hop, dance battles used to be a way of diffusing tension and negativity as well as express themselves.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

Identity / faith or belief / relationships/ humanity

What are you reading at the moment?

Nothing! Although I read a lot, it’s primarily for information rather than pleasure. True to my roots, you’ll see more influence in my writing from who I’m listening to.

What advice would you give to new poets?

Write and share from where you’re at. From the words you use, to your voice and the way you feel on and off the page. It’s all yours, nobody else’s, so embrace it.

Where is the best place to get copies of your work?

For printed copies you can find me on Amazon – I have two projects, Bless Yuh Art which is a year’s worth of poetry in the order it was inspired, and 7 on the back which was my first foray into self-publishing. However, if you want to see and experience my poetry from across the years – both my YouTube and Instagram pages have a number of videos.

Have you any upcoming performances?

I’ll be doing an online performance for Gloucestershire Poetry Society in the autumn, date to be confirmed, and I have a headline set at Voices from The Fountain in Walsall for May 2024. I’ll be putting up performances on my social media pages as soon as I know.

Bless Yuh Art
7 On The Back

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