This post contains reference to topics that are of a sensitive nature.
To the man on the bus I overheard in conversation, tell a woman, presumably a friend…
The words starting simply, slowly built with intensity to an unheard rhythm, leaving a harrowing echo and adrenaline coursing through my body. This is the talent of Pages Matam and the power of his poetry.
Pinata hit the internet through Upworthy a few weeks ago, making Pages a star in the way only a viral video can. The poem is a dark commentary on societal views and beliefs about rape and abuse. It left me dumbfounded, it left me intrigued.
I sought out Pages’ work; my research leading me to discover that not only is Pages a talented creator but he is also dedicated to his craft and the improvement of society. The 2010 and 2012 Grand Slam Champion, co-host of the GraffitiDC Slam series and winner of the Write Bloody New Author Award for his newly released book: “God Circus”, he is not without major success.
A few weeks ago, I sat down to have a chat with man who had left me speechless. A far cry from the 11 year old with little English, Pages has developed a strong relationship with words and is diligent with their presentation. Within minutes of our chat, he explains the energy and power that words have, ending by sharing that he is wary that once words are out there’s no taking them back. Having spent the last few years developing workshops for all generations to pursue their passion of creative writing, he now offers sessions on the healing power that words and creativity can create.
Art gives you access to your unknown self, forcing you to face your truth
To Pages, words, poetry and being creative are the best way to actively listen to yourself. With an outlook like that, it’s hard not to feel goosebumps when you consider that his personal history has not been the easiest. It is through writing poetry and using it to reflect, that Pages has been able to combine the power of therapy and self-awareness to overcome addictions and abuse. However, it’s only in recent years that he has started pouring parts of himself into his published work. For years, he ignored reflective pieces in favour of commenting on the world and neglecting the issues impacting his personal life the most. A seemingly innocent conversation with his son made him turn inwards, leading to his first personal history piece, Cancerous Growth. Since then, he has started discussing broader truths, moving away from love poetry, which, he assures me, were really very bad and beginning to build his own balance between personal history and commentary on the society he is most passionate about. He has joined Split This Rock and developed a passion to fight social injustice and promote positive culture change through creativity.
Bringing the truth to power through words…
It is clear that Pages has a great passion for change, creativity and politics and he seems to have found a balance between them all. I asked why creativity had a place in the realm of social awareness and the campaign for social change and he went quiet. Slowly, he told me a story of what it is like to be an immigrant with a memory and understanding of one culture but the socialisation and habituation of another, one that does not always recognise who you are. His story weaves through and around topics of ethnicity, gender, and belonging, acknowledging but not forgiving the problems society has created around them. Stereotypes, he explains, are difficult, because you cannot challenge them without feeding them and encouraging their growth. He continues on, explaining that expressing yourself creatively, providing a platform that anyone, regardless of background can relate to, is one of the many ways safe discussions about social injustice can occur.
Just write, I started writing love poems; they were dreadful things…you can be a doctor or a banker but you need to be creative
At this point, my 30 minute conversation has fast morphed into 40, 45, and, eventually, 60 minutes. It is easy to become wrapped up in conversation with Pages, he is intelligent and relaxed. He tells me about his dreams to build a school that focuses on the importance of creativity. Why, I wonder, is creativity so important? “…because it forces you to face your truth”. He tells me stories of his youth and the dedication of his mother to ensure that he had creativity in his life. It doesn’t matter what field you end up in, you could be a doctor or a banker but creativity is going to help. You need to know how to deal with emotion, you need to know it’s ok to feel and that feeling a particular emotion is neither bad nor good, it just is. It’s what you do with it that counts and this, Pages says, is where creativity plays a role.
It’s ok to be angry and guilty, even if they’re useless emotions
I cannot leave without asking him about the Pinata success. He is surprised by it, he didn’t really think that so many people would be interested in it. He tells me that he has received messages from men and women all over the globe, Pakistan, England, Canada, US, the middle east… Most, he says, are messages of support, promotion or relation. What makes Pinata so special? At first he’s unsure, but then he quotes something his friend told him “you’re giving a voice to the voiceless”, he elaborates further, not taking credit for representing other peoples’ experiences but instead highlighting the importance of speaking about pain and using it to heal. Your story, he says, is your story. But you never know how it will resonate with other people.
Your story is your story but you don’t know how it will resonate with other people
We speak a little longer and eventually call it a day. I leave our conversation feeling inspired and refreshed. Some how, I feel like I have just left a particularly good therapy session where previously uncovered truths were revealed. Pages has a funny way with words and is definitely someone to keep watching.
If you’re interested in following Pages Matam’s journey, reading his work or learning more about him check out the links below. Over the next two weeks, I’ll have a question and answer session from Pages and 6 step guide on how to get creative. It’s going to be fabulous!
Pages Matam is a multidimensional national touring artist, residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. He is a Write Bloody author, playwright, and award winning slam poet (2time DC Grand Slam Champion, 2013 Southern Fried Champion) with passions in the field of youth, activism, and education. Along with his greatest accomplishment, being a father, he is also a proud gummy bear elitist, bowtie enthusiast, professional hugger and anime fanatic. As he takes stage – as a poet, educator, or host – be prepared to be taken on an experience of cultural, socially conscious, and personal discovery unapologetic in its silly, yet visceral and beautifully honest in its storytelling.