Rising Star Parruh Dox

Welcome to The Summer Street Library’s Winter Interstitial!

There may be snow on the ground, but The Summer Street Library’s blog lives and breathes (albeit chillily and wrapped up in a scarf).

While we often start our spotlight artist articles with a brief introduction to the work or its artist, this week we are diving right into the poetry. Powerful and poignant, these three poems by rising star poet and spoken-word artist Parruh Dox stand alone.

 

The Poetry

 

Black Girl (Magic)
by Parruh Dox

Wanna see a trick?

Tell the world
To protect me

And watch how quickly
People disappear.

 

(Insert) Black Woman
by Parruh Dox

Yes, I am mad.
But you do not have
The right to make my anger
A character trait.

You will call me by my name
Or not address me at all.

I will not let you control a
Narrative you have yet to understand.
A Narrative you refuse to admit
Exists.

 

The One With the Black Boy and the Gun
by Parruh Dox

I
When I say my prayers,
I make sure to say your name
The loudest
Because I want God
To hear every syllable.

I press my palms together
Until they turn white
And I speak directly
Into them
As if my hands
Are safer than any sidewalk.

When you were born,
The doctor slipped up
And announced you as a
“Beautiful Statistic”.

Your mother didn’t bat an eye.
Knew what he meant.
That the safest
You would ever be
Was in her womb.

By default,
You were now fair game.
Your existence: a threat.
And once

You would learn to speak,
Your words would only sound
Like gunfire and sirens.
Your teeth
mistaken for bullets.

If you behave well enough,
They might up you
To a collectible item
Or a starring act.

I don’t know though.
Not everyone is that lucky.
Not everyone lives
Long enough.

II
This lovely officer’s barrel
Has already proven
To be stronger than prayer.

He’ll call me “boy”
To let me know
That he sees a man

But not his equal.

He will not hesitate
To shoot me down
Like an animal.

He’ll anticipate
The opportunity to mount
The article on his wall
Like a plaque.

Make my demise
A conversation piece
For dinner parties
And ceremonies.

Mistake my blood for concrete.
Cause who knew my body could even do that?

He’ll say
He warned me.
But I guess his gun beat him to the punch.
I wouldn’t even be surprised
If he tries to claim I ran.
Even when my tears will be the only part of me
To make it out alive.

He’ll label my mother’s sorrow
As a good deed.
Gloat about how target practice
Really paid off.

My living
Mistaken for just another session.

Break bread with his colleagues
Over the way
My body fell.
Or how they’re going to cover-up
All the events leading up to when it did.

He’ll say
I was the weapon.
As if that wasn’t
What he reached for.

If anything,
I would think
He could hear

My heart yanking
At my rib cage
Or my lungs struggling
To make their closing argument.

He won’t say
My name.
He’ll slip up
And say “trophy”.

And each letter
Will fall off his tongue
With ease

But to your ears,
It will be
Another accident.

 

The Discussion

While I’d like to imagine us both poised (leg crossed comfortably over knee and cup of tea steaming in hand) discussing poetry and all it stands for, due to the global pandemic, such niceties were discarded in my online exclusive with the one and only Parruh Dox.

However, even without the face-to-face, my interview with Dox was amazing. We discussed everything from her first poems written in response to an elementary school homework assignment to the grim realities of police brutality.

In her varied work, Dox examines a number of different topics and themes ranging from race and privilege to gender, love, and sexuality. Dox never shies away from questions of intersectionality. Instead, she dives into them, exploring all the nuances of identity and existence in 2020. Both a fantastic poet and a spoken-word artist, she has been described by some as “a quiet storm”: reserved and shy off-stage and an impassioned performer on.

When she writes, Dox doesn’t hold a particular target audience in mind. Instead, her Hip-Hop inspired pieces enter vast emotional spaces that vibe with whoever hears or reads them. Dox explains that, “I have never really had a target audience. I  am always hoping that my work reaches all demographics. My goal is for my words to make audience members feel comforted, empowered, heard, and understood, especially for those who may not always get the chance to use their voice. This goes for whether I am writing about heartbreak or issues faced in Black communities.”

As we began to discuss the three poems shown above (“part of a larger project which will be a poetry collection centered around the adversities faced in Black communities,”) I asked the following question: “Black Girl (Magic),” “(Insert) Black Woman,” and “The One With the Black Boy and the Gun” center painful realities for Black people, especially in the United States (police brutality, the murder and disappearing of Black women and girls, the adultification of Black children, racialized stereotypes, tokenism, etc.). Does writing about such painful things provide catharsis or create further labor for you?” Dox responded that writing can be used as a reflective healing practice. She explained that,

For me, writing about painful things does provide catharsis. I am a thinker and when my thoughts become too much,  my brain is not a great place to keep them. So writing has been that outlet for me to release my frustrations and sadness especially with all that has transpired these past few months with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. There is and has always been so much harm being caused to our bodies both directly and indirectly. For that reason, I think Black voices are really important in this time, so being able to use mine is not only cathartic but a form of activism.Parruh Dox

I wholeheartedly agree with Dox; brains get busy and writing provides a much-needed outlet. Writing, especially creative writing, holds immense power. Stories told from a multitude of different voices (not just those published by PWI or predominately White institutions) create not only community but also generate power to change the world we live in. Dox wields that power deftly.

 

Parruh Dox’s Inspiration

Outside of poetic content, a large portion of our interview concerned Dox’s poetic context: what inspires her, which artists she reads or views regularly, and what frustrates her about her craft.

Dox described her “written voice as very lyrical because my inspiration stems from Hip-Hop.” Like many other writers, Dox cites music as a massive source of inspiration. Music not only can set the mood for a successful writing session, but the lyrics themselves can inspire many a great work of art. For Dox, Hip-Hop reigns supreme and some of her favorite artists are A Tribe Called Quest, Mick Jenkins, and Bas.

While Hip-Hop fuels a lot of her current work, Dox also draws inspiration from poets integral to her youth:

Aside from Hip Hop, I have had the pleasure of hearing/reading from other poets and spoken word artists like Jasmine Mans, Danez Smith, Rudy Francisco, and Porsha Olayiwola. These were some of the first voices I heard when I started writing. In addition to writing poems, I also do spoken-word. Each of these artists gave me the push I needed to really pursue the art of poetry and when I am searching for motivation, I revisit their work. Their words are always so powerful and raw.Parruh Dox

If you are interested in checking out some of Dox’s favorite poets and spoken-word artists, click on the portraits below.

 

Working Through Writer’s Block with Parruh Dox

Though her work feels effortless, when asked if she ever struggles with writer’s block or creative fatigue, Dox’s answer was a resounding YES: “Yes, yes, and yes. I have been dealing with creative fatigue for about four years. There have been times where I have been able to snap out of it and get a piece or two out but it is still a challenge of mine.” A common phenomenon with poets, Dox expressed that sometimes her poems can feel stuck, “I think the most difficult part of my artistic process is expanding a poem. I am in a stage where I will be writing a poem, it will be going well and then my thought process comes to a halt.”

However, Dox tries not to let herself get caught in a rut for too long. She is perpetually in “the process of finding ways to break out of that but also letting it come to me without force” — as a fellow writer, I understand this feeling all too well. Currently, her best writing hangover cure? Research and rest. She explained that, “[w]hen I want to get back in the groove, I try to read other poets, listen to spoken-word artists on youtube, or just let my brain rest until my thoughts flow naturally.”

When I asked one of my final questions, “Do you have any advice for aspiring poets/writers?” I received perhaps my favorite answer to date, “I would say to trust yourself and be patient with yourself. There are so many moments where we doubt ourselves or compare ourselves to other writers and I think that that can affect our creativity. Everyone has different experiences and ideas and you never know if your perspective is missing from the conversation. Everyone should have the opportunity to be heard and if writing is the way you communicate that, then make it happen. We all have something great to contribute!”

And in [the] moments where you feel like your work is not where you want it to be, give it time. There have definitely been moments where I have had to put some poems on hold and would get frustrated. Once I let it rest, the words would eventually come to me and the poem would evolve into something better than what I expected. So do not be discouraged, it’s there. You just have to let it simmer for a while.Parruh Dox

 

The Poet

Jacqueline Moore was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Moore adopted the witty stage name Parruh Dox in 2016 to embody her own multiplicity as a “quiet storm.”

I chose the name “Parruh Dox” on April 23, 2016 from the actual word “paradox” because one of its definitions is “a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities” and when I perform, people have referred to me as a quiet storm because of how reserved I am off-stage as opposed to when I am on the stage. On stage, I become louder and more outspoken. So “Parruh Dox” felt very fitting.Parruh Dox

Now a senior at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, Dox first began experimenting with the world of written arts in early elementary school, creating short stories and poems. She quickly became drawn to poetry as a creative and communicative outlet: “I often have trouble verbally getting my point across so poetry became an avenue for me to write out what was on my mind in a style that felt comfortable to me.”

While her early work followed strict rhyme schemes, “as I got older, I found myself just letting the words go and allowing for the lines to retain the same movement my poem would have if I were to still incorporate rhyming.” Today, Dox’s lyrical poems utilize free verse in expansive and innovative new ways.

Stand out performances include the University of Massachusetts Amherst Poetry Jam in 2017, where she performed “Things Black Moms Say.”

In this poem, I start off with some relatable quotes like “Don’t be running in my house” and “When we go to the store, don’t ask for nothing, don’t touch nothing, don’t even look at nothing” and then I transformed it into warnings that Black mothers often give their children so they may not be criminalized when they are either in the house or outside the house due to negative perceptions given to Black children. Many people who heard the poem related to it and, although bittersweet,  it felt good to know that I could create something that many people could resonate with.

 

If you are interested in Parruh Dox and her work, follow her on Instagram (@Parruhdox) for spectacular content.

 

Until next time, follow @Parruhdox and keep on reading.

~ Sadie

 

*all quotations come from The Summer Street Library’s exclusive online interview with Parruh Dox

 

The Summer Street Library focuses on highlighting young, divergent, and or underrepresented writers and artists with an especial focus on BIPOC, self-published, and unpublished writers. If you are interested in contributing to The Summer Street Library as a spotlight artist, please contact the blog’s founder, Sadie Hofmeester, at thesummerstreetlibrary@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *