BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Marcus Bowers, also known as Lateef Dameer in music circles, is a force of nature. He blends music and poetry together seamlessly. He collaborates with poets and writers to create music alongside writing (which you can listen to here) with the collective Brooklyn Gypsies. Over the past few years, Bowers has been working on "First Kiss," which is best described as a music, poetry, and documentary album; Bowers wrote lyrics, recorded music, and interviewed people on what they think love is. And that's a question worth asking — and answering.
Check out a preview of his project below:
What was the impetus for starting "First Kiss?" How did you develop the idea?
This idea originally started off with the artwork. It was something about the colors of the piece that spoke to me. I decided it was time for me to put out some new material. I told myself this would be a beat tape that was essentially a small EP. This was in summer of 2015. I had all these ideas, but I found myself drawn back to older and incomplete songs that I had. They had a piece of life that was calling out to me. It was funny listening to some of this stuff because as time goes on you change as a person. I set out to create something that could showcase that naivety of older work, executed with the knowledge that I have now, consciously. Ultimately, this is a love story that I'm telling.
How is your music and your writing connected? How is it separate?
Nothing is separate in this process. The only difference is how your perception functions, but they both lead you to the same result. There's a term in German called "fingerspitzengefuhl" which translates to fingertip feel. When I'm writing I feel that sensation in my hands, it almost feels like sand is running through them but that's what let's me know I'm on the right path. With music I feel it in my chest, but it still leads to the same place.
What influences your writing in general? (It doesn't just have to be other writing.)
I have to live a lot of things first. Those experiences provide the springboard to delve into a lot of things. First Kiss parallels a book/documentary that I've been working on for the past two years. I also like going to museums, not necessarily to view the art, but watch the people. I think that they're the real art in that situation. The rooms and paintings can stay the same for years, but the people's faces are always changing. Those changes are like a piece of music or colors slowly forming into something.
Describe your favorite meal.
I'm a big fan of home cooked meals, that's one of the best ways to experience something made with love.
What was your MFA experience like? What's your advice to someone who is interested in pursuing a MFA? What would you change?
It was great, it really altered the direction that my life was going in. The people I met have made a lasting impression on my life. They also taught me how to be a better writer and artist. My advice for those pursuing an MFA? Do it for the right reasons. Do it because in your heart, you know you want to become a better writer. I know a lot of people take this route because they want to publish but it's also important to spend time nurturing your abilities. Also, don't always be afraid of a price tag. I know some programs can be expensive and not everyone (especially those deserving) will receive full rides. If this means something to you, take a risk. There's no such thing as the perfect conditions/situation. You won't know how deep the water is until you jump in.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Feminist Wire, BUST, Pouch, and elsewhere. She also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets.
Marcus Bowers, also known as Lateef Dameer, is a musician, artist, and poet. He currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.