Another Type of Groove (ATOG) centered around Black History Month for winter quarter’s first performance. Students, several performing for the first time, sang and read poetry about a little bit of everything — from a rendition of Etta James’ “My Funny Valentine,” to a retelling of the African-American folktale “Why Lizards Can’t Sit,” to personal works about an ex-girlfriend and the passing of a parent.
Featured artist David M. Oliver, more widely known as Judah 1, took to the stage twice — forgoing using a microphone to create a more intimate setting.
Judah 1, a slam poet, is the author of two original poetry books, founder of spoken word venue LionLike MindState and a poetry teacher to a wide variety of students — all the way from first-graders to prisoners at Chino Men’s Prison and The California Rehabilitation Center for men, according to an event release from ATOG.
His poetry hits an array of topics, largely focusing on time and social disparities.
The following is a Q&A with Judah 1, which has been edited for space and clarity:
MN: What have you been reading or watching lately?
Judah 1: Oh, shit. I don’t watch too much of anything, I don’t watch TV, as a practice. I’ve been reading “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri, really dope book; “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space” by Joseph Campbell; and I’ve been reading some secret mystery school texts that I can’t give you guys names for.
MN: How do you start creating a poem?
Judah 1: More than not, I’m freestyling from my car, and that’s how I start. Or when it’s like, really in my spirit, I find myself — when I wake up in the morning — I’m already talking. And it’s the poem. So I either remember portions of it, what’s happening, or I start writing immediately.
I did that especially when I was younger. Now I can control it a little more, and then I pick a target and just start shooting.
MN: How has your idea of poetry changed since you started?
Judah 1: It has not. It has not. It’s still a vehicle of God.
I started writing songs and things like that when I was seven, and then poetry when I was 15 or 16.
You know, it’s a vehicle of God, the voice of the prophets. It’s the movement of the people. You know, people won’t move unless you talk to them first. You know what I mean? Nobody would learn anything if we didn’t speak to each other. So the number one way of doing that: get a poet on board. That’s your shaman, that’s your seer, that’s your sorcerer, your source-seeker, your prophet, fuckin’ lawman, your philosophers — yeah, that hasn’t changed. We’re everything.
MN: Explain the importance of poetry, to you, as a medium.
Judah 1: Poetry is the medium. I actually have my new album coming out called The Milder Medium, where I’m saying, like, I am the medium. Because, I think the purpose of poetry as a medium — because it is a medium — is to automatically lift the people higher.
You know what I mean? It’s like you’re in between the higher aspect: God’s self, and then the lower aspect: your true nature.
(Poetry) is there to lift you up to the concept — maybe not take you to the concept — but lift you up out of where you are, so you can see out of that shit. That’s the purpose of poetry, to me. It’s to either magnify something and expose it, or to lift you up out of something so you can see who you are.
MN: Who or what inspires your poetry?
Judah 1: Everything. Period.
MN: Is there any poet who you particularly idolized?
Judah 1: No.
I like 13th of Nazareth, from Virginia … He’s really dope. One of my favorite contemporary poets, actually, but he suffers from epilepsy. So we had a couple of shows scheduled together over the years, but every time he’s at the airport — he has epilepsy — so he doesn’t make it out. It’s pretty sad, because he’s phenomenal. His mind is ridiculous. And he doesn’t get to use it or share it — and that shit’s whack. That’s it.
MN: What’s one takeaway you want people to have from your set?
Judah 1: Oy! That God is in you. And that is actual. That’s not metaphorical bullshit. And that if it is, what will you do then? Period.
If God is in you, what will you do? What will you not do? It’s up to you.
MN: Why come back to Cal Poly to do ATOG?
Judah 1: Ooh — because it’s awesome. It’s awesome. The response last time was incredible. People followed me on Facebook, they followed me on Instagram. A couple guys hit me up today to say, ‘Hey, I’m coming out to see you today.’ And that felt good. So, I’m back. And I attacked. Back on the attack.