Anthony Ragler: Behind the Mic
October 06, 2014 at 6:11 pm
Can you imagine the characteristics of a poet, applesauce crusher, a rapper, sports fanatic, singer, stepper, and artist, in one person? Blavity’s newest series in partnership with Button Poetry focuses on learning about the spoken word artist behind the mic. We pick a poem and then reach out to the creator to hear the story behind it.
So without further adieu — let’s introduce you to Anthony Ragler!
What part of NY are you from?
Most of my life, I was raised in Brooklyn, but I also have lived in Southside Jamaica, Queens.
How did you get interested in spoken word? Was there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction of spoken word?
Actually, spoken word came around the end of 2011. I got into a really bad car accident that August and happened to come across the youth organization “Urban Word NYC” which ultimately led me to writing poetry and falling in love with spoken word.
Do you remember the first poem you heard that motivated you to be driven about poetry?
Absolutely! “Mega” who I brought up before was the feature at the very first open mic I ever attended. He spit a poem entitled “Jackals” where he was telling his mother about a dream he had about killing all the kids in his school who used to bully him. Then he ended the poem with “Mom, why do you look so upset? Didn’t you always tell me to follow my dreams?” And I lost my mind when I heard that.
What topics are you passionate about speaking on?
Normally, I write a lot of sporadic topics, and my poems rarely touch on the same topic each time, but recently, I’ve been having a lot of my writing geared towards the discovery and understanding of myself as a Black person, more specifically a Black male, because we are in such an awkward state of ambiguity, with us being placed at a disadvantage by being Black, but also, us being put in some sort of privilege and threat by being male. It’s very intriguing to navigate my identity and understand how to be a better person, and continue my overall growth through this vantage point.
What inspired your poem Target? Why did you write it?
Basically, I had been in a space where I was realizing I didn’t write any “Black” poems. A huge part of that came from me feeling as if that part of my identity was cliche, or unimportant to talk about, and then the verdict for the George Zimmerman case came out, and that night was so heavy and surreal, that I had to get some type of release and expression. I was the only person silent for the entire night, while all this was happening around me, because I wasn’t sure of what I felt yet, and this poem was the best I could do at trying to explain the confusion in my head.
Do you still get nervous when you perform?
ALL. THE. TIME. I absolutely cannot perform without nerves. I’m so self conscious about being on stage that I’m normally trembling before I go up and I have to leave the room and try to center myself beforehand. When I get nervous, that’s how people can tell I care about what I’m doing.
What motivates you?
My biggest motivation is my daughter, Robyn. Absolutely nothing in this world makes me continue to fight like she does. I come from a family of lots of teenage parents, so my biggest goal, is to continue proving that age doesn’t dictate your aptitude for parenting. My daughter will have all the love and beauty in her world that I can give her and have the support of two loving and hardworking parents.
Who or what inspires you?
I think my biggest inspiration is the mind; I find it really interesting how people think and form opinions and conclusions on things. A lot of my work comes from trying to understand things in a way sometimes outside of myself, and also trying to communicate the way I think and rationalize to others.
How long have you been writing? Performing?
I’ve been writing raps and short stories since I was 8. Poetry came in 2011. Between stepping, singing, rapping and poetry, I’ve been performing since 2nd grade.
What has been your favorite performance, and why?
Favorite performance of mine HAS to be at the Nuyorican this past summer, when I did a group piece, entitled “Horror Movie” with my teammate and brother, Omar Holmon
. I felt static going thru me the entire time, and I had never felt a rush like that before.
Who are your favorite poets?
My list is quite biased! Almost every one of my favorites, I’ve been blessed to see read in person and it’s usually those that captivate and stimulate me far past the moment they touch the stage. That being said, Omar Holmon, Megan Falley , Danez Smith , Simone Beaubien , Ken Arkind , Sean “Mega” DesVignes, Joel Francois, Jared Singer, Olivia Gatwood , and Tonya Ingram would be my top ten, in no particular order.
Who is your favorite poet that we wouldn’t have heard about?
Joel Francois!!!!!!!!!!!! No one understands how ridiculous his writing is. This guy is the only person I know that can tie a poem together so tight and every line be one of the most incredible BARS ever. His work is like the poetry version fusion of Cassidy (his mixtape work) and Blueprint 1 Jay Z
What upcoming performances do you have scheduled?
The performance I have coming up that I spend the most time preparing for is on October 10th at the Nick Cave exhibit. He’s this really dope visual artist who put together a lot of pieces which I and four other poets will be performing poems based off of.
What do you plan to have accomplished in 5 years? 10 yrs? (In regards to life, career, and spoken word)
Hopefully a book (or three, but who’s counting?), being a professor at a college, teaching creative writing, hopefully married and having a well established writing career. My daughter would be 12 around that time, so also having a strong and dedicated child who is on a path to reaching whatever goals she has set for herself.
What is your favorite motto or quote?
“Greatness is a lot of small things done well, stacked on top of each other.” – Ray Lewis
What’s a fun fact about you that most people don’t know?
I can probably eat all the applesauce in the world if given three hours to do so.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
Say what you mean. The truth is definitely something you can’t shy away from and it’s much better to be an honest person than it is to speak only for others to enjoy you. Write your truth and let no one try and take that from you.
Look out for Anthony’s upcoming performance on October 10th at the Nick Cave exhibit. He and four others will be performing poems based off of Nick Cave’s exhibit, who is a visual artist. If you’re in New York- you don’t want to miss it! And if you attend, bring applesauce and challenge him!
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