Prentice Powell, from Oakland, California, is not your average Poet. This Spoken Word Artist, Father, and Husband has been spitting poetry for over a decade; which has taken him on a journey to unimaginable heights. He is an NAACP Image Award Nominee, and has been on a summer tour with Jill Scott as a member in the poetry collective, Fiveology. He has performed on all five seasons of TV-ONE’s Verses and Flow, setting the stage ablaze with his powerful, yet witty performances, with fiery and bold delivery. In addition, he was the host of the behind the scenes segment during the fifth season. Prentice is also the only Spoken Word Artist to perform on the Arsenio Hall Show 3 times! When Prentice isn’t on stage He works with children, spends time with his own beloved children, and wife. When Prentice and I spoke he was not in the best of health, but humble and enthusiastic to converse with me; Even advising me ahead of time of how he was on “Daddy duty.”
When asked about his inspiration for writing his first poem, he expressed how he looked up to his older cousin Tyson Amir. “Everything he did, I wanted to do”, He said. It was at a local festival event, where Tyson recited a poem. Not too long after Prentice did the same. “Interestingly enough, when I recited my first poem I didn’t sign up for the Open Mic to do it.” Prentice recalled receiving such a good reaction that a Slam coach approached Prentice requesting him to be part of the Coach’s team.
“I had to write a poem every week after that for a Slam team I was apart of then competed in a National Slam Poetry competition where I placed fourth with the team and thirteenth individually.”
What astonished me most about the gifted individual is that he accomplished this only TWO MONTHS prior to writing his first poem! Prentice is no stranger to challenges. In fact, when asked what its like working in a poetry collective with 4 other talented poets he expressed that the participation is rewarding and has had a great influence on pushing him to be a better poet and writer. To my surprise and honor he asked for feedback after he shared with me an unreleased poem that he has not yet performed publicly. The title for the piece wasn’t revealed, but the concept of the poem is derived from “Yo Momma” jokes. I told him it sounds good, although some tweaks could be made. Prentice then told me when he shared it with a friend and member of Fiveology; he had more or less shrugged at the poem and said it was “okay.” It was then explained to me that it is important to have people in your circle that are doing as well as, if not better than you; they give constructive criticism and motivate you to strive and push your own limits.
When we touched basis on his motivation and creative process behind writing, I asked how does he balance being married almost 4 years, 3 children, working with autistic youth, traveling the world, and working the standard 9 to 5?
“Because my wife and kids can travel with me it makes it A LOT easier to spend time between shows and constant practice.”
With respect to his 9 to 5, Prentice works with a non-profit organization in Oakland as a Youth Therapist and has a good relationship with the organizer so he is able to arrange travel. I asked Prentice if working with autistic youth influences his writing. He expressed that it has a large influence, but it is not something he uses to be the main topic in his work.
Before concluding, Prentice and I shared a moment of sentiment. I asked the young phenomenon among the many accolades and credits he is recognized for, which one is he most proud of?
He laughed and said “To be honest, I haven’t been asked that before! I would have to say the time I was on stage at the Arsenio Hall Show. I had watched his show as a kid so to be on his show was surreal.” As Prentice spoke in retrospect about the monumental moment on stage at the Arsenio Hall Show reciting his poem ‘Good Father’, he exclaimed this exposure by far was “the most REAL!” He continued by stating, “That was an experience you would have had to be there to really feel it.” Whether or not it was due to his ailment at the time, I could definitely feel and hear the raw emotion within his voice as he recollected the genuine moment.
Prentice continues to travel, sharing his poetry with many and assisting aspiring writers in workshops. Before we closed, I asked who is his favorite artist of this generation? He excitingly responded;
“Dude, Kendrick Lamar by far; because of his consistency and lyricism. That’s’ where I’m going with my writing.”
I gained more respect and a more defined perspective on Prentice Powell after our conversation. I used to watch videos of him on YOUTUBE.com and would feel empowered to continue expressing myself through poetry. That was in 2011. Five years later, who would have thought we would be arranging an interview? This was a surreal moment for me as a fan of the craft, but more of a monumental moment for me as a fellow writer and aspiring spoken word artist. I asked Prentice what would be his best advice for an aspiring spoken word artist. He expressed the importance of having and honing your own voice. I then shared a poem with Prentice that I wrote and asked for feedback. After some positive feedback, and a few specific suggestions, he said, “I challenge you to turn this 1 minute piece into a 3 minute monster.” I smiled, thanked him and said, “challenge accepted.”
You can follow Prentice Powell on Twitter: @FollowPrentice and Instagram: @PrenticePowell1906