Multi-media Spoken Word Artist
Challenge. Question. Explore. This is the journey Joe Davis invites the audience to take with him into the edges of expression. No topic is taboo if addressed with respect and sensitivity as he offers a perspective of light to even the darkest of themes. He defines poetry as “a rhythmic wrestling with truth” and confesses, “I am not a poet because I speak eloquently. I am a poet because I struggle desperately to express my soul’s deepest longings each and everyday—yet I never shy away from the fight.” And he communicates this struggle the most effective way he knows how, with words of passion and conviction, to unearth the truth and beauty that lives in us all.
Presentations, fit for high schools or colleges, classrooms or auditoriums, include high-energy spoken word performances integrated with story telling to create poetry workshops where students can explore the art of the written and spoken word. With an English B.A. and over five years of tutoring student writers, Joe Davis bridges academia with personal experience as a touring performer, sharing his successes and "marvelous misadventures" to encourage audiences to move closer to their goals—whether it be simply writing a haiku or climbing Mount Everest, he aims to ignite and inspire a pursuit of purpose.
Change is possible, but only if we unite a commitment to both words and actions. Although you may be familiar with the old saying “actions speak louder than words”, Joe Davis asserts action and words should be on “equal frequencies”, inseparably reflecting each other through all we say and do. Because of this conviction, he not only continues to amplify the voices of the unheard through his poetry about empowering the marginalized and eliminating social injustice, but he also serves as a youth organizer and travels as an artist activist, creating forums for engaging conversations about our individual and collective responsibilities to make real change happen.
Bio: Born in the humble prairies of Minot , ND, the son of a Jamaican immigrant mother and a hard-working Chicagoan father, I was raised in home chilled by piercing winters and uncertain transitions yet warmed by a family full of faith and love. My parents and older sister nourished my creativity and imagination at an early age-- from play time to story time, long library visits to watching Reading Rainbow-- planting a seed which would only grow with the encouragement of classmates and teachers. When my passion for words was first realized it was simply therapeutic, a cathartic release for struggles I kept quietly to myself. However, it wasn’t long before my poetry was recognized at home, school, church, and throughout the community, where I began to actually identify myself as an artist. I learned that my words could be used to offer hope and healing to others who had experienced similar problems and pains as those I wrote about. Poetry became a passage for unity and understanding, an outlet for my soul, a place to articulate my triumphs and tragedies. Since this discovery I’ve seized nearly every opportunity to share, propelling a growth and challenging a mastery of my craft, a never-ending quest for excellence and expression that continues to this day.
Q: How long have you been an artist/creator? A: I always say I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen, but I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating. Even when I was a kid, before I knew how to write, I would run around the house making up wild stories and acting them out like a play or a movie. Poetry and storytelling have always been a part of my life.
Q: What inspires you to create? A: I don’t mean to sound generic, but literally everything inspires me. Love, hate, life, death, music, food, religion, art, entertainment, pop culture, history. The more I learn about the people and the world around me, the greater I’m inspired to write about them. I know it may seem crazy– because, from my experience, not enough people think like this– but I can find beauty in absolutely anything. And that’s precisely my purpose through poetry: digging within and without to unearth unnoticed beauty.
Q: Who are your greatest influences? A: God and my family, first and foremost-- that’s a given, I’d expect. I’m also incredibly influenced by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was most definitely a poet in his own right, even the way he lived his life. He lived his words. Gil Scott-Heron is also a huge influence. If you’re not familiar with his work then I would recommend studying anything he’s ever put out (books, albums, interviews); he’s the godfather of spoken word poetry. Langston Hughes is a creative genius whose influence is impossible for me to escape or ever forget. My list could on and on, but for the sake of brevity I’ll simply mention a few others: Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Saul Williams, Matisyahu, Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Israel Houghton, Joel Janikowski, Shakespeare, Shane Claiborne, C.S. Lewis, Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and YOU.
Q: What do you love best about your art? A: I love the power it has to make a difference, to make a change. Words, the kind that are actually powerful enough to stick in your head and stay in your heart, can change the way a person thinks, acts, and, ultimately, change the world.
Q: Why do you create? A: I create because I have to. If I didn’t, I would be dead. Creating is synonymous with breathing. There’s something inexplicable and inextricable deep down inside of me that compels and urges me each day to challenge, question, and explore with my words. I’ve tried to fight it before but I lose every time.
Q: How do you see yourself growing as an artist and your art expanding in the future? A: I’ve been blessed to see a lot of my dreams come into fruition. I felt something special after one of my first successful performances with Anthony Noble (aka ButtaSmooth or B. Smooth) as part of the True Soul Brothaz. I remember it was at this venue called the Red Carpet and I had chills washing over me afterwards because what I had envisioned for so long was finally happening. But that was only the beginning. Since then, we’ve released an album and won a handful of local competitions including MSU Battle of the Bands and a Pangea House Poetry Slam. I see myself doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the past seven-plus years, only perfecting my craft with each mistake and misshape. This year I’ve expanded my project with the addition of live instruments and I’ve performed with a number of bands accompanying my spoken word. My goal is to form a full-time, full-fledged, quality band and work on poems that are more musically engaging– I’ve even begun experimenting with singing and started taking guitar and piano lessons. Anthony and I are in the beginning stages of a promising second CD and I hope to eventually tour with the band. I’m also working on self-publishing my first collection of poetry and (this one is big for any fellow-artists who might be reading) have started emceeing a weekly open mic at Minot State University (held every Thursday at 8:30PM in the Beaver Dam!). In the end, I want nothing more than to empty myself of all the God-given creativity I’ve had poured into me in hopes of leaving the world a little bit better of a place than it was when I came. Ideally, that would be through traveling the world and sharing my heart and soul and poetry with anyone willing to listen. I imagine myself on a distant journey, wandering barefoot down a narrow, dusty road somewhere faraway, yet still called home, with guitar in hand, spouting poetry, eyes full of hope and heart full of healing. Perhaps this is just another one of my wild childhood stories waiting to be told. But a boy can dream, right?