It’s a funny thing, when poets speak to each other. We spend so much of our time trying to find the right words to fit our social commentary into, that at conversation time the words escape like dreams at daybreak. I sat with Reginald “PM” Sweet after UnPlugged the other night to discuss poetry in Albany. About six questions into the interview, I had to tell him: ‘You suck at this!’ He nodded and told me that he gets that a lot. We laughed, as I got myself set on making this easier than it should seem.
PM, as most people call him is like me, a born-again Albanian. His mother, like mine was born here in Albany and moved north where she had her children. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts. When he was ten years old, his mother moved the family back to Albany so that her children would know nature, community and safety. I watched as his eyes became glazed over when he spoke of the move to Albany, Georgia at ten years old. I watched still, as a glimmer came across his eye when he abruptly said “I appreciate my time here, though. The experiences that I’ve had in Southwest Georgia are ones that I can be almost sure I would not have had anywhere else. And I have gotten to see the development of an arts culture here, which is great.” Suddenly, the conversation began to flow.
We spoke of poetry. I asked him his views on the responsibility of poets to share a message. He said: “Oh, poets have a tremendous responsibility. We are the living, breathing newspaper. We have to relay the news and current events and situations in ways that are entertaining, eye catching and ear catching. In three minutes we have to fill [the audience] with information that they would not have known otherwise.” His passion speaks louder than his words. What seems natural to him and I, though is to some, an unreasonable and lofty goal. We both reflected for a few minutes on wishing more poets would take the initiative to use their gifts to speak to their audience on solutions to problems rather than trivial things. Then, I think we both caught ourselves. You see in the poetry world it’s easy to get caught up in a “real poets” conversation. We didn’t go there.
I asked him about the business of poetry. I always find this interesting when speaking to any artist, but with poets especially. We discussed the difficulties that we face being paid fairly for our work. More often than not, we get the old: “I’ll take care of you after the show” routine. This led us to discussing his goals as an artist. One such mission is to get people to value the work of artists. To do this, artists must be ready to share some of their deepest introspections so that their work will be genuine and, well, really good. Along with releasing inhibitions, artists will need to insist on being paid for their work. Another hard task to undertake.
I asked PM about his view on the arts in Albany. He said: “I like the movement. To have so many types of artists come together to make something is amazing. The support system that is being created between merchants and artists is great. We have strong, committed local people who benefit from the arts on so many occasions”. I totally agree. It is wonderful to see new artists and new merchants popping up everywhere.
As we wound the conversation down, it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked a very important question. ‘What’s your next big project?’ He told me about the project, which is not yet titled and includes: a DVD, a CD and a book of poetry. He started immediately telling me about his plans to make his CD release party one for the books here in Albany. He will produce a live show incorporating dance, music, vocals and poetry. For this event he will also have free CDs and be joined by his band, G&S Band and poets such as The Black Poets and other Southwest Georgia artists.
For more information about Reginald PM Sweet, check him out on facebook at: www.Facebook.com/blackpoetpm
Tannur “Shewrightz” Ali is originally from Philadelphia, PA. She began writing poetry at 12 years old, and began performing at 13. Winner of the Judith Stark Creative Writing Award, Host/Facilitator of Unplugged (Poetry Reading and Spoken Word venue), and member of The D’town Arts Coalition. Tannur remains active in the art, and always working to secure a place for the arts in her community.