10.12.17 Stories Books and Cafe / Echo Park, LA.
I first met Michael at The Pocket LA a few weeks ago. His passion for his craft and ability to express himself on stage blew me away. He's open, he's authentic, he's passionate, and he's steady moving. From starting his own company "The Auditory Museum", to having volunteered at two correctional institutions, this guy is dedicated. To giving his time, energy, and heart, to the world around him. We met this past week at Stories Books and Cafe. This was the result.
Michael grew up in a city near San Diego called Oceanside, CA. He moved to Los Angeles in hopes of attending UCLA, but shortly thereafter came to realize school may have been just something to tell people he was doing because it seemed socially "right." He ended up attending Santa Monica college for a few years and began his true pursuit for art and poetry in the years following.
A: "So then when did you write your first poem?"
M: "Back in 2010 while attending Santa Monica College, I was involved in a group called the Black Collegians and we attended what turned out to be my first exposure to a spoken word event. At that event I heard a man by the name of Daniel do a piece on his brother being in the military and something just immediately resonated with me. A few days later while at my grandparents I ended up writing my first piece. It was called truth."
A: "That's awesome. Would you say there are genres to poetry?"
M: "I don't know if I would call them genres, but there are definitely different ways people express themselves. For example, you may have a poet who is more theatrical in their delivery or soulful and afrocentric or poised and solemn. The best poets deliver pieces in a way that allows people to journey through story and come up with their own meaning."
Michael recently had the opportunity of to coach a group of 7 inmates in using spoken word to poetry to tell their stories at State Correctional Institution Dallas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His passion for helping inmates was birthed from a trip he took to Louisiana State Penitentiary a.k.a. Angola, earlier in the year. Michael discusses each prison experience as spiritually empowering and paradoxical. "There was a certain level of forced mindfulness from the isolation of the men. You either have to meet yourself where you are in there, or you don't make it." '
A: "Did you have to ever remind yourself that to a certain level - you were no better than them?"
M: "I think that their punishment (from an objective point), is what you reap you sow. For example, if you took someones life there must be consequences associated. Now do I think that defines you forever? No. I believe you can transcend and grow like some of these men are doing."
A: "Was there anyone that stuck out to you in particular?"
M: "I met a guy on death row and we talked through the bars. When he was 19 he took the life of a young girl at a restaurant. He's 45 now. There was a moment while he was talking that I just thought to myself, "woah, you're just like me and we're both here on earth just waiting to die." That realization was huge.
Today, Michael continues to share his craft with those around him. Inspiring a new generation of poets, and helping companies create their story to strategize positive outcomes via his company The Auditory Museum, he is constantly giving.
You can find Michael on Instagram at @michaelnelder. His website at michaelnelder.com. And "The Auditory Museum" at theauditorymuseum.com.