Nick George - Poet
The performing arts have been a part of Nicholas’ life since he was a young child. His Trinidadian parents decided very early on to engage him in piano lessons while growing up in Newark, NJ. In taking these lessons, Nicholas also began to explore another love of his: the written word. In middle school, a guidance counselor suggested for Nicholas to try his hand at writing poetry as an outlet. In this early stage of writing, his topics ranged from self-identity, faith, and day-to-From there, poetry seemed to become a permanent part of Nicholas’ life. In high school, while participating in various theater programs, Nicholas sought ways to perform his poetry at multiple open mic venues in Newark, South Orange, and Montclair, New Jersey. This is where his introduction to spoken word took place.
Upon arriving to Virginia to study Psychology at Liberty University, Nicholas continued to perform his poetry by performing at various campus open mic events. He developed his style as both a writer and performer while earning his Masters Degree in Professional Counseling. It was at this point that the idea for The Listening began to take form. By connecting the worlds of mentoring and the performing arts, Nicholas plans to use The Listening to show the community of Lynchburg that lives can literally be saved and changed with the performing arts. Nicholas, his wife Brittney Shanesse, and daughter Naomi Alese are still living in Lynchburg.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
As far as being an artist, I don't know that it was a conscious decision. My family, being West Indian, is a very musical, very rhythmic group of people, and my godmother was always taking my siblings and I to theater productions and live performances. I do remember watching Michael Jackson’s “Jam” music video and being mesmerized by his energy and passion. I wanted to be able to bring that passion into whatever I created.
Where spoken word is concerned, I remember initially being intimidated by other artists who would perform at some open mics or street freestyle cyphers back home (in Newark, New Jersey). It wasn't until arriving in Lynchburg that I began to intentionally dig into what I sounded like as a spoken word artist and what kind of message I wanted to portray.
How does your personal story/background influence your work?
I definitely attribute my passion and creativity to my Trinidadian background. My father is a very driven, very focused individual, and is not a fan of wasting time or words. My mother, on the flip side of that coin, is very emotive and vibrant when it comes to her method of expression. When they got to this country, they definitely wanted to make sure that their children had a chance of a better life, better than the childhood they had.
Growing up in Newark, NJ also plays a big part in my poetry. Artist Talib Kweli has an album entitled “The Beautiful Struggle”, a sentiment that I find myself agreeing with more and more as I get older. To me, there is something beautiful about striving to make the world around you better than when you first arrived, while trying to enjoy yourself along the way. At the same time, I remember feeling that I was the only kid in the city who experienced the kinds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I did. In many ways, I write and perform the way I do to connect to any young people who may feel that way.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
To date, I am proudest of the poems that I have written to and about my wife, Brittney. When it comes to the love poems that I have written, they are some of the most focused and intentional pieces that I have created. And some of them are only meant for her eyes!
The poems that I have written for my daughter, Naomi, are also some of my more personal pieces. These are not meant to be performed, but are more resembling prose and poetry than spoken word.
I would also have to say that the pieces that I have written and performed regarding The Listening are definitely some of my favorite. They contain a lot of the passion I feel about this platform, and I truly do hope that they capture the attention of this community.
What is the hardest part about being a professional artist?
No artist likes to be told what they can and cannot do, say, or create. In my opinion, the hardest part comes in understanding that while artists do have a responsibility to create authentically and fully, if we hope to impact lives outside of ourselves, we also have the responsibility to create responsibly. Some call it censorship, while I prefer to refer to it as it truly is: creativity. As wordsmiths, we have the responsibility to explore past the easy adjectives and dig into the vastness of our native tongues. As Robin Williams’ character explained in ‘Dead Poets Society’, the use of lazy words serves no one.
What advise would you give aspiring artists who come from minority or other under-represented groups?
If you had a room filled with people willing to listen to you, what would you say?