Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees edited by DuEwa M. Frazier
As a hip-hop head, I can't tell you how excited I was to see an anthology devoted to female poets and emcees. Such a work has been a long time coming and much needed. So, I'm truly excited that the visionary editor and publisher of Check The Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees , DuEwa M. Frazier, has agreed to be interviewed about her wonderful path-making and groundbreaking book. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2007. And I'm sure there will be many more awards and accolades to come.
So, DuEwa, welcome to my blog and thanks so much for coming. My first question has to do with the title of the anthology. As a long time Tribe Called Quest fan and lover of the golden era of hip-hop, I have to say I love the title. I love it because I can just hear Q-Tip and Phife rapping "check the rhyme" and it gets me hyped. But mostly, I love it because of the "check" that is demanding attention, getting the world to look at the other half of hip-hop that has been ignored too long. What inspired your choice of title?
DMF: I chose to title my anthology, Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees because I really wanted a title which paid homage to hip hop and to poetry as a whole. Also, Tribe Called Quest's music was the soundtrack to both the latter years of my high school life and in the early years of my college life. So, I felt it was fitting to utilize those words for the title. I've received a lot of positive feedback on my choice for the title, which made me believe I made the right choice.
GB: You dedicated the anthology to "all the little girls who grew up to become women who created a new world, through the power of voice, and the defiant stroke of the pen.” Can you talk a little bit about your desire to document and validate the female hip-hop artist whether she is a poet or emcee? What made you take on the editing and publishing of this endeavor?
DMF: As a young girl growing up, writing was my escape. Writing has able been a way for me to validate myself and make sense of the world around me. When I became an English teacher, I found that our youth love writing poetry and expressing themselves through rap/spoken word. My experience as a youth who loved to write, and my experience as an educator propelled me to want to create a publication that would inspire our youth to believe that they too can pursue the art of writing, lyricism, spoken word, hip hop performance, as a viable tool for expression. So creating an educational tool was one of my reasons.
Being a performance artist and poet, I have met so many awesome female artists and heard about so many artists who I might have never had the chance to work with, had it not been for creating this project. Another reason is that I wanted to create a project which supported the notion that women represent hip hop and spoken word just as powerfully as men do. Myself and most of the writers in my anthology grew up rocking to M.C. Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, Sweet T, Salt n Pepa, Bahamdia, and many other esteemed female rap artists. We dreamed to be in these artist's shoes. I knew the rap lyrics of popular male artists back in the 80's and 90's better than alot of my male friends at the time and I was writing poetry. So hip hop and lyricism is in the heart and soul of women poets, just as tough, and I wanted to shed light on this and celebrate it.
Finally, love. I have a love for what I do. I am passionate about people expressing themselves and I'm one of those people who cannot just sit around and wait for things to happen. Check the Rhyme Anthology was a labor of love in that sense. I knew there weren't too many publications doing this and as an independent publisher, this was my chance to show and prove.
GB: Have you always been a poet? When did you write your first poem? Who are some of the poets you admire?
DMF: I probably wrote my first poem in elementary school. When I was a child, I remember reading the work of June Jordan, lindamichellebaron and Langston Hughes. Later on, in college, I read Shakespeare, Robert Blake, Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Nikki Giovanni and many others.
GB: The poets and emcees in the anthology write about and grapple with issues such as identity, love, violence against women and even Katrina and New Orleans. The poetry is beautiful and political. Can you say a little bit about the editing process and the vision you had as you compiled this multitude of poignant voices?
DMF: It took me awhile to get the rhythm and settle on the themes I wanted, but after I read through the work I received it wasn't hard to make the decision. The work I received was phenomenal on so many levels! I wanted to give a good sample of the topics many of us care about in our lives and in the world. I received over three hundred submissions from poets, so I really had to narrow it down to what I felt would really represent the themes. It is a blessing how it all came together. I continue to be appreciative of the work the poets sent.
GB: If you had to write a letter to a young black female poet or emcee, how would you start it? What would you want her to know?
DMF: Wow, that's a good question. I would tell her to:
"Take your words and make life beautiful. Create the world you want to live in through your art."
GB: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and let us know all about this amazing book. How can readers obtain a copy of it if they are interested?
DMF: Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Also visit my website at http://www.litnoirepublishing.com Thanks so much Gwyneth!
Check out the book trailer: