Through an email from a friend I recently became aware of a very talented NOLA poet and performer, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley. She was competing in the 2011 Brenda Moosey WoWPS Video Competetion on Poetry Slam, Inc. with her poem “Voices”. She won. (Click here to view the video.) One look and listen and I was hooked by the passion and words of this young woman. I contacted her to ask for an interview for the blog and she was graciously accepted. Keep your eye on this woman – she’s going places!
As far as the number of years I’ve been “creating” poetry, I will say that I’ve been “creating” it my entire life. All of my life experiences–past, present, and future–have contributed to each poem I’ve written and will ever write. I’ve been “writing” poetry for approximately 18 years.
Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
At the moment, poetry is my primary genre, but it is not the extent of who I am as an artist, writer, and performer. I also enjoy writing songs, short stories, and plays. Right now, I’m actually working on–what will soon be–my first novel, so I’m very excited about stepping into new territory.
What is your earliest recollection of writing and poetry as a passion? Do you remember your first poem?
I actually started out writing raps in my purple 1-subject spiral notebook around the age of 12. Naturally, I began to experiment with a more free style of writing, becoming less confined by rhyme patterns and rhythm. I’ve kept a journal since 4th grade. That was the birth of my poetry, short stories, and plays. For some reason, I’ve just always known that I was a writer. I never had an aha! moment. It’s just always been there for as long as I can remember. Even before I ever completed my written anything, I knew that I was capable and called for such. Unfortunately, my personal internal memory card has malfunctioned and will not allow me to go back and retrieve my first poem ;)
Do you prefer the spoken word genre of poetry over the written and, if so, what exactly draws you to the spoken word?
I really enjoy both, but if someone were to twist my arm and force me to choose, I guess I would go with spoken word since that is where a poem comes to life. That is how the world was formed–through words spoken. Let there be Light, and so there was. The tongue is what gives the words the power. Spoken word is also how I conquered my shyness through the realization that I have the power to manifest things just by speaking them and that I have an audience of people captive, if only for 3 minutes. It is one of the greatest adrenaline rushes ever!
How did you first get involved in poetry slams?
I started out judging poetry slams at True Brew Cafe on Julia Street back in the day when Pozazz Productions was the lifeline of the poetry scene in New Orleans. In the back of my mind, I was like I wanna do that. I CAN do that!…I’m gonna do it! Well, I didn’t…immediately. When I returned to New Orleans after being displaced in L.A. for a year after Katrina, I was like I gotta take this more seriously! I may never have a chance to do it again. I began to build up my confidence quickly, and then Asia Rainey asked me to compete in The Battle of the Boot, an annual fund-raising slam against Baton Rouge. I was shaking so bad, I could hear it! But I got up and did my thang, and to my surprise, I had one of the highest scores of the competition. After that, I was hooked!
Is writing your full-time occupation?
Writing is not my full-time occupation. It is not my goal to become a full-time writer, because there are so many other things that I do. My goal is to become a full-time artist period.
How much editing do you do to a piece? Do you ponder and rewrite or just go with your gut?
Sometimes my pieces require little editing. They just come to me the way they’re supposed to be at that time. At other times, I have to go back and rework them, especially for timing purposes when slamming or when writing group pieces. Some pieces require a lot of research and re-working to incorporate information and my point of view/concept successfully. There are even poems that I’ve performed numerous times that are years old that I’ve gone back later and edited. I don’t think a poem is ever finished though. It is constantly re-writing itself.
Do you have a favorite place to write that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
I don’t really have a favorite place to write, but it is hard for me to write under pressure or when it feels forced. That’s when I usually go blank or come up with something really corny and useless. At home in my bed with a pen and my notebook has proven to be the best place for me to create so far, but sometimes I do enjoy sitting outside, being close to nature, and creating.
Who’s work has inspired yours?
I don’t know if any particular writer has inspired my work, but I will say that my parents, grandmother, and some friends have inspired me as a writer. I do enjoy the works of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Arna Bontemps, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Patricia Smith, Sunni Patterson, Asia Rainey, Lionel King, Asali Devan, my fellow Team SNO (Slam New Orleans) team-mates, and the list goes on…
Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself, most likely, no longer slamming but still performing spoken word in an international setting. I see myself as a published, best-selling author and playwright, and respected visual artist. I pray that I am a wiser, more effective, and more confident artist by then, and I hope to make a living and change lives through my art.
Please share some of your favorite poetry and writing places in New Orleans and on the internet.
To watch/perform poetry, I really miss True Brew Cafe, but right now, Pass It On at the McKenna Museum of African-American Art on Saturday nights is the place to be! My friends over at NOYO Designs have really done an amazing job at picking up and carrying the torch for the New Orleans poetry community! On the internet, of course, YouTube is an easy place to find a lot of diverse poetry performances that wouldn’t normally be documented elsewhere.
Where can we hear or read more of your work?
Very little of my work can be found on YouTube, but I can be seen at Pass It On at the McKenna on most Saturdays and performing all over the place! I will be competing at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Columbus, Ohio, on March 9-12, and competing along with Team SNO in this year’s Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam in Atlanta (the first week of June) and at the National Poetry Slam in Boston (early August). I plan to publish my novel by the end of the year and am working on compiling a collection of my poetry. Other than that, I can be found on FB (along with millions of other people!), where I regularly announce my upcoming performances and post poems. My website is in the works now, and will be up within the next few months as well.
Originally from Alexandria, Louisiana, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley has been penning poetry, plays, songs, and short stories since the age of 12. Since making New Orleans her home in 1998, iCon has been an integral ingredient in its artist gumbo. She has held the titles of the 2009 Louisiana Individual Poetry Slam (LIPS) Champion, 2009 NOYO SlamChampion and Female Poet of the Year, and winner of the 2009 NOYO Poem of the Year. As one-fifth of “Mighty,Mighty” Team SNO (Slam New Orleans), New Orleans’s first slam team since Hurricane Katrina, iCon has helped to lead the team where no other New Orleans slam team has gone before—consecutively winning the Battle of the Boot (2009-10), 2nd place at Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam 2010, and Group Piece Finals Champions at the National Poetry Slam 2010. Currently, she is the winner of the 2011 Brenda Moosey Video Slam. A lover of the stage, iCon has also been featured in productions such as the musical, Badu-izms (Fringe Festival 2009), and Eve Ensler’s A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer (V-Day 2010). She was also featured in the EngageNOLA/Humid Being’s “If I Were Mayor” commercial for the 2010 New Orleans mayoral race. In March 2010, iCon released her first CD, The Art of Lyrical Horticulture which has received much love and praise underground for its flavorful blend of song and spoken word. She is also featured on many other artists’ works such as Team SNO’s Da Cypher, Suave’s Hip-Hop Soul Revival, and MF’N Entertainment’s The Reconception. Still relatively new to the game, iCon has already shared stages with the likes of Sunni Patterson, Taalam Acey, Kelly Love Jones, Amanda Diva, and Asia Rainey. However, her passion far surpasses the stage and extends into the community, where she has worked with and for several non-profits, while still finding time to teach writing workshops in public schools and assisting with the New Orleans Youth Slam (NOYS) team. With a dash of poetry, singing/rapping, acting, hosting, visual arts, teaching, and activism, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley adds just the right seasoning to an increasingly flavorful gumbo!