The word master: an interview with master spoken word artist Talaam Acey

by Minister of Information JR

One of my favorite spoken word artists of all time is Talaam Acey, a brotha I know from the now defunct Jahva House, which was in Oakland, and who I reconnected with recently at a poetry spot in Gary, Indiana. More than anything, I like his passion for words. When he speaks, he speaks from his spirit; he doesn’t spit words you hear, but ones that you feel.

In my opinion, passionate writers are the best writers because of their ability to convey emotion from their mind to yours. They’re memorable because of the feelings that they stir up inside of you simply with their wordplay. Talaam Acey is a master spokenword artist and a national artistic treasure in Black communities around the nation.

M.O.I. JR: How and when did you start writing poems?

Talaam: My parents were Black nationalists and a part of Imamu Amiri Baraka’s Committee for a Unified Newark. They collected poetry books and chapbooks that I began reading when I was 4 years old, then instantly tried to imitate. That’s why I say I’ve been writing poems ever since I could read.

My interest in poetry stems from a combined love of rhythm and poetry. It’s a calling, in addition to a compulsion. I got involved in this current generation of poetry via spoken word in the mid-‘90s. I completed my spoken word start while in the Nuyorican “class” of 1999.

M.O.I. JR: Who influenced you?

Talaam: I grew up reading Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni. I also spent those years listening to Gil Scott-Heron, Oscar Brown Jr. and The Last Poets.

M.O.I. JR: What is the difference between poetry and spoken word? What do you do?

Talaam: Poetry is an umbrella term that encompasses many art forms including spoken word as well as lyrical song writing, rapping and of course literary poetry. Spoken word is poetry, written to be performed orally, without any rigid constraint regarding musical measure, consistent tempo or harmony. Spoken word is what I do, sir.

M.O.I. JR: How do you pick your topics? What are some of your topics?

Talaam: My topics tend to be related to curing depression, sociopolitical edification or love/eros. I write poems moved by feeling the direction of what I’m drawn toward at any given time. Perhaps it’s random eclecticism or maybe universal guidance. The end goal is versatility.

M.O.I. JR: I have seen you perform all over the country. What were some of the biggest places in your opinion that you performed in?

Talaam: The largest I recall would be a 6,000-seat room in the New Orleans Convention Center the second time I did the Essence Poetry Festival. I’ve also done the Paradiso in Amsterdam, the Albany Theater in the U.K., the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a mixture of House of Blues, Howling Wolf’s and Hard Rock Cafes. In terms of recurring venues, that would be San Francisco’s now defunct Second Sundays at the Justice League and Fly Poet in LA at the Henry Ford Theater, which got a crowd of a thousand.

M.O.I. JR: What do you have out now? What are you working on?

Talaam: My newest project is called B.O.S.S.: The Birth Of Spoken Soul. There are a few samples of it around the web, including YouTube.

M.O.I. JR: Where could people see what you do online? How could people get in touch with you?

Talaam: The best places to check my work are and, of course, Google searches that often yield things I’ve yet to know about me! Check out,,, and

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at and visit