PHOTOGRAPHY BY JERMIL (WWW.JERMIL.COM)
INTERVIEW BY JORGE LARA SANTIAGO
VIMMAG: Greetings A.J. You worked with me as an Advisory member on the Las Vegas Poets Organization, giving us access to your in depth knowledge of the Slam community and helping promote poetry throughout the city. What do you think is in store for poetry in Vegas in 2012?
A.J. MOYER: I think there’s a lot in store for poetry here in the next year. We have seen a lot of growth in the scene through the past year, from new open mic events starting up to performing for packed auditoriums at Western High School to featuring nationally touring poets at the slam and some of the open mics. With even more workshops coming and new poets emerging all the time, I think there’s still a lot of growth set to happen and I’m really excited to see it all happen.
VIMMAG: What would you say your poetry is about? And how has it changed since you first began to write?
A.J. MOYER: I don’t stick within any particular topic in my writing, but if I had to put a theme on it I’d say my poetry tends to focus on personal experiences we all share (even if we don’t readily acknowledge them), and exploring the truths that we sometimes don’t reach out for. I have grown really fond of shining light on the half-truths of history, whether it’s personal history or world history.
My writing is constantly changing and I’m always challenging myself to try new approaches and different styles, so it’s a whole different creature than when I started writing. I think the only steadfast element from then to now is my tendency toward “we” language. Because I mostly write with the intention of performing my work, I try to keep the audience engaged and involved by including them as part of the experience. I’m definitely more willing to try new things and test different styles and voices than I ever was before, and teaching workshops has pushed me to be a lot more analytical with my own material.
VIMMAG: As Slammaster and a member of the 2011 Las Vegas Slam team, you got to venture out to the National Poetry Slam? How did that turn out? Did people ask you about the poetry scene in Vegas?
A.J. MOYER: This was my third time being at Nationals, and it’s an incredible experience every time. R.J. Reynolds and I traveled out to Boston for the whole week-long experience, and we not only got to see a lot of incredible performances but also got to learn a lot from workshops and theme events that we could bring back and apply here within our home scene in Las Vegas. We were surrounded by incredible poets all week, which meant a lot of opportunities to talk to people about the strength of the poetry scene out here and invite them to come be a part of it on their tours. Most of the poets we talked to about it were psyched, and as a result we’ve already hosted four former Individual World Poetry Slam finalists (Jesse Parent, Brian “Omni” Dillon, “G” Yamazawa, and NovaKane), a National champion (Jovan Mays), and we’ve got even more coming in the future.
VIMMAG: You co-host Talky Trees with R.J. Reynolds at The Arts Factory.
How has that been working out for you?
A.J. MOYER: It’s been fantastic. Talky Trees is really an incredible experience each and every month, and it’s especially exciting to know it’s one of the youngest crowds of any open mic in town. I love getting to see so much youthful talent come through and blow everyone’s socks off month after month. We have great features every month, and the community canvas is always a thrill to watch come together. Every month, I get jealous of whoever wins the community canvas.
VIMMAG: Who have been your poetic inspirations?
A.J. MOYER: Taylor Mali inspired me to start writing (and teaching) first and foremost, and since then I have practically been collecting inspirations like I collected Pokemon cards. Probably my biggest and most direct inspirations have been Mike McGee, Aaron Johnson, and David Perez. Christopher Lane from Sedona is my biggest inspiration on the organizational side, and I’ve strived to build the feeling of family and community that he cultivated in northern Arizona everywhere I have been. Recently, I’d have to say the whole Las Vegas poetry scene is an inspiration, and the open mics as a whole. Seeing the variety and the talent each and every week all around town builds this energy and reminds me I need to stay on my toes and keep working to improve my writing.
VIMMAG: If you were given the chance to feature at an open mic and were given the opportunity to read from a local poets poetry, who would you pick and why?
A.J. MOYER: It’s almost impossible to choose just one, but I think I’d have a lot of fun reading Jesse Ranon’s work. He hasn’t been reading much lately, but I’m a big fan of his imagery. Ideally, I’d want to put together a set that would let me read as many people as possible, but if I had to pick one it would be Jesse.
VIMMAG: In your non-poetry life, you tutor autistic children. Could you share how that has impacted your life?
A.J. MOYER: From day one, it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s a lot of responsibility, especially knowing that how I react to situations can have a significant impact on the kids. Thankfully, I have great co-workers and our company has an outstanding consulting staff. They’re a great safety net to have, but it still keeps me on my toes and forces me to always be aware of the effect my actions might have. Seeing the kids that I work with fight so hard through their own struggles is a source of constant inspiration too.
VIMMAG: You have performed for VegasOntheMic.com and I've recently been invited by Mike Ziethlow to attend and perform. Could you tell us about it and how it went?
A.J. MOYER: Vegas on the Mic happens every Thursday at Money Plays, and it’s a really cool event. Mike comes from a street performance background, and I think he naturally draws street performer types – folks with immediacy to their work that makes it a visceral “I have to share this with you now” kind of experience when folks perform there. The venue is fantastic, the performers are spirited and talented, and Mike steers the ship masterfully. The performance order is all random and all the performances are recorded so the artists can use them to create their own CDs and merch, which both provide an extra unique twist to the show. It’s just a shame it falls on the same night as the slam twice a month so I can’t be there every week.
VIMMAG: You've reached out to touring poets who have come out to perform in Vegas. What poets have you brought here and are there any poets that are on your wish list?
A.J. MOYER: So far we’ve had Aaron Johnson, John Survivor Blake, George “G” Yamazawa and Kane “NovaKane” Smego, Jesse Parent, Jovan Mays, Darnell Davenport Jr. a.k.a. Mr. Poetic, and Brian “Omni” Dillon. We’ve still got Nathan Say, Christian Drake, Seth Walker, Leslie D, Joshua Ballard & Chris Rockwell, Marc Marcel, and Sierra Demulder lined up in the near future.
My wishlist would have to be: Taylor Mali, Mike McGee, David Perez, Sam Sax, Rudy Francisco, Amy Everhart, Anis Mojgani, Kim Johnson, Rachel McKibbens, Jon Sands, Jeanann Verlee, Jamie Dewolf, Jaylee Alde, Jason Bayani… really, to list everyone I’d love to have here would take forever. Like I said on the back of one of my previous chapbooks, I loves me some poets! More so than any specific names, I really want to keep bringing in folks who have a lot to teach through workshops and who can help contribute to the sense of community here and do inspiring work. Whether it’s a multiple time national champion or just a really dedicated veteran writer, the most important thing is that we bring in people who help invigorate the poets around them and drive others to step outside of their comfort zones and step up their writing.
VIMMAG: What do you think it would take for Vegas to one day host the National Poetry Slam here?
A.J. MOYER: It’ll take a lot of organization and support, and a good reputation among touring poets. A bid for Nationals won’t go over if the reaction from other folks who’ve been here is lukewarm or disappointed, and we’re certainly doing well in that respect. We’ll need a lot of sponsor and venue support as well, because hosting Nationals is not only expensive but requires a lot of venues clearing several nights on their calendar, getting hotels involved to give special rates for attendees, and managing to get this all together in a small enough space that those who can’t bring a vehicle can get around easily on a bus pass or simply by walking from venue to venue. It’ll be a lot of work to get Nationals here, and I think our first step is hosting a regional event. I’m hoping to have us hosting a regional here in Las Vegas in the next couple of years, and assuming that works out we’ll have a good foundation to build more from in hopes of putting in a bid to host Nationals sometime down the line.