Three Questions with: Timothy DuWhite

by LA Markuson

The news is getting worse and worse. But poets can provide insight, hope, community, and a call for change.

This is the first of a series of micro-interviews with the individuals of the 2016 Bowery Slam Team. I’m sitting down each week to pose three burning questions to our slammers, coaches, and documentarians.

Timothy DuWhite is a 25-year-old New Jersey native, who is a prolific writer, poet, and activist, specifically in the areas of empowerment for QPOC, HIV, and spirituality.

LA: Every poet has a voice. What is yours, and do you feel you speak for yourself, or for others too, who may not have the opportunity?

TDW: The idea of voice is often a misnomer, yet is always that which becomes political. As a black person, everything that escapes my mouth is considered a political statement. It’s exhausting. For me, it’s crucial to be honest and aware — I have developed a sense of understanding that simply speaking truth for me is also a way I can honor my people.

LA: How does poetry affect or augment your life? Do you use poetry to help you get through struggles, or use it in other ways?

TDW: Anything that helps you make sense of thought is inherently therapeutic, that just so happens to be poetry for me. Some people have this theory that struggle and trauma give you the best poems — it’s kinda fucked up in a way, but maybe it’s true to a certain extent. However, what I like to stress to youth in particular is that there isn’t any instant gratification when it comes to trauma. One of my most well-known poems is “Joy Revisited” — it took me a year and a half to get that on paper after being diagnosed as HIV+. In this case poetry was just the symptom of me reaching a better place in my life.

LA: Your poetry obviously has a powerful message; If you could perform any one poem in front of any audience — a world leader, a specific group, or other — who would hear what poem?

TDW: “So He Called Me a Faggot.” It’s my most unapologetic poem to date. It’s about sexuality, blackness, violence, orientation both within and outside of queerness, joy, and so much more I have yet to discover yet. It’s thoughts that I would at one time shame as inappropriate, that I finally let out. Speaking to leaders doesn’t really interest me. They’re not dumb enough not to know all that is happening, all who is dying, so what I might say couldn’t convince them to suddenly start caring. I want to speak to my people. I have a desire to affirm my people. These places I get paid to attend… I don’t see many of the faces of my people, so I make it my business to seek them out always.

We’re looking at poets as crucial agents for social change, and Timothy DuWhite is a beautiful example of this demand for change that is gathering strength all over the country. Stay in touch with us, share this voice, and come see Timothy and many other talented poets perform at the Bowery Slam, Monday nights at 9pm.

Much love.