Eva Hill is an undergraduate writer and poet at Oakland University who recently participated in the OU poetry slam. She has been writing and performing poetry since she was in high school, and agreed to talk about her inspirations, motivations, and her experience performing slam poetry.
Sharnita Sanders: What first drew you to poetry?
Eva Hill: My sophomore year of high school, I studied at the main library in Detroit. One of the librarians told me that the table I was sitting at was to be used for City Wide Poets. She explained to me that it was a program from Inside Out that taught high school students poetry. Afterwards she asked if I would be interested. I said yes as I thought it was a good way with losing my great grandmother a couple months before.
Sharnita Sanders: Do you limit yourself to just poetry or do you dabble in fiction writing? How do you separate the two genres?
Eva Hill: In the beginning I just focused on poetry and barely dabbled in fiction until I came to Oakland. I separate poetry by understanding that it creates an environment (tell) where fiction goes on to explore the environment (show). At times it is hard not to blend the two.
SS: What triggers inspiration for your poetry?
EH: The trigger used to be from pain and hurt. Then it transitioned to an Alice In Wonderland type of poetry. Now it is being able to get in someone else’s mindset or shoes and bringing what they have to say into existence.
SS: What poets (modern or historical) have the most influence on your work?
EH: Maya Angelo, Emily Dickenson, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes and upcoming poets in Oakland and Detroit.
SS: What is it about poetry that you love most?
EH: I love the freedom it gives me when writing about something new.
SS: The Poetry Slam that was held at OU last week was awesome! Was that your first time preforming spoken word poetry? Or reading your work aloud to such a large crowd?
EH: The first time I performed spoken word was City Wide Poets first Scratch The Page during my sophomore year of high school.
SS: What was your favorite moment of the slam?
EH: Hearing the other poet’s pieces and seeing the reaction of the crowd and how many people enjoyed poetry.
SS: When you’re an artist in the field of something as provocative as spoken word poetry, you never really know how people will respond to what you have to say. Even though seemed totally in your element, were you nervous reading your work aloud?
EH: Yes! I was a nervous ball of energy. I couldn’t figure out how to keep the audience’s attention and speak loud enough. I’m naturally a low speaker. That is aside from speaking too fast and wondering if it would hit a nerve with anyone in the audience.
SS: How did you prepare and what were the inspiration for the topics of your poems?
EH: I attended a workshop by Justin Rogers where we performed our pieces by tossing a paper ball and picking up where we left off when it was our turn. What inspired the topics in my poem were some of the issues that were portrayed in media and the controversy caused by it.
SS: What advice do you have for those who want to write poetry or don’t feel like they wouldn’t be good at writing poetry?
EH: You’re going to love certain pieces and then absolutely hate some of them. Don’t throw them away, leave them alone for a while (days, months or years) then go back and see how you can rework it. Going to open mics and writing prompts are good ways to write poetry. Try swapping pieces with another poet. Remember, poetry is the language of your imagination.