Nikki G.‘s stage presence is hypnotic. The poet, who has performed all over the Valley, draws audience members in with passionate energy, giving her take on everything from sensuality to women’s issues. It’s no wonder she’s represented Phoenix on a national competition scale — her poetry is catchy, meaningful and animated.
The 38-year-old Phoenix resident and addiction therapist by day goes by Nikki G-Spot during her erotic performances, which are guaranteed to get you hot and bothered. She’s working on a book to be published at the end of this year, and has two professionally produced CDs available now — Erotic Symphony, Pt. 1: The Spoken Word of Nikki G. and Love, Lust & Heartbreak.
Catch her live at the HomeBase Poetry open mic every first Sunday at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel in Phoenix from 7-10 p.m. Check out her poetry at NikkiGPoetry.com, and listen to her works here. Read on for what inspires her work, and keep scrolling to watch her talk about her favorite parts about living in Phoenix.
What brought you to Arizona?
I moved to Arizona in 2005. I had come here on vacation and stayed at a resort in Scottsdale in 2004, and I thought everyone was so friendly. If someone would have told me I would have moved here years ago, I would have said, “You’re joking. There’s no way I would pick that place.”
I was born in Washington, D.C. My parents are Jamaican immigrants who met in the D.C. area. My mom moved to California, so I went back and forth between the East and West coasts.
I got my undergrad in psychology from Argosy University and worked in mobile crisis and a mental health hospital here in the Valley before getting my Master’s degree in forensic psychology. I enjoy working in all areas of mental health and have a passion for helping people.
How would you describe your poetry?
I first started writing around the age of 6. I’d write whatever struck me emotionally – short stories, whatever made me feel something, either my direct experience or seeing something someone else was going through that hit me hard.
I think the thing that is funny about it is I didn’t see the true connective value of my poetry until I started performing, and people would come up to me and say, “This piece made me feel this way,” or, “This piece you wrote about your mother really hit me.”
My mother was a drug addict, and one of the pieces people usually say is their favorite of mine is not a sex piece, it’s a piece about my mom. It’s not talking about her being a terrible mom because she was addicted to drugs, it’s saying, “Look, here’s a woman who struggled. She did so many things to make her life comfortable and support her child, and everything crashed when she started consuming that substance.” Here’s that woman, me, crying out, saying, “I still need that love of my mother that is missing.”
Also, I talk about sex, but in a sense that a lot of people are not comfortable with talking about sex. A lot of poets or spoken word artists who call themselves erotic poets are very raunchy and very raucous. You almost never hear me say a curse word or name reproductive parts of the anatomy. It’s not because I feel I’m above it, but it’s because I’m trying to get people comfortable with being sensual, sexual beings, comfortable with what true intimacy is.
How did you get involved with performing poetry?
I was going through a divorce and writing a lot of emotional stuff. My friends thought it would be a good outlet for me to perform it and share it. I didn’t start sharing my poetry with other people until October 2009, which was the first time I did an open mic at (now-closed) Conspire (in Phoenix). I was nervous and didn’t want to do it, but everyone here in the arts community is so warm and friendly.
I started going every week to the open mics and was asked to feature at Conspire in February 2010. I met (slam poet and now owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing) Aaron Johnson at the feature, and he said he loved my poetry. I freaked out because I thought so highly of him and started attending the slam competition he was hosting. I made it onto the Phoenix Poetry Slam team in 2010.
What’s your writing process like?
It dances in my mind. It just hits me, and however it flows out of me is how I write it. It’s usually inspired by music, or I’m hit with emotion. It usually flows out of me within five minutes and just hits the page.
The only time I experience writer’s block is when someone wants me to write something specific, and they want it right away. If I have to write for a cause or event, I’ll go the whole week without writing, and then two days before the event, it comes out. I have to marinate with it.
How do you create your catchy cadence?
I’ve been told that’s the way I sometimes talk naturally. It’s just with me. Very rarely have I had to modify a poem so it flows. It’s just natural.
What can people expect from your upcoming book?
It’ll be a collection of different components of life. People can see the facets of everything I write about. Love, Life and Strife is a title I’m playing with because it covers everything from love to struggle, domestic violence, abortion, and women not being treated equally in our society.
I don’t know how it came to me, but I wrote a poem called “The Daughters of the World,” where I talk about the injustices of how women are degraded in different cultures around the world. That will be in the book, along with the more sensual material.
What do you hope people take away from your poetry?
I believe everyone’s experience with art is unique. I don’t try to think about what they should take from it, I just hope they participate in it and get their own vision from it.
For people who are interested in writing poetry, what tips would you have for them?
Don’t try to conform to a style. Think of it like dancing, or like singing a song in your head, or taking a paintbrush to a canvas. You are painting your interpretation of life, so it shouldn’t be defined by rules or genres or different styles. It should be uniquely you and speak to what you feel. Don’t feel sensitive or encumbered by how people receive it.
How would you describe your style?
Some of the art scene is segmented here, and I dance in all circles and get along with everyone. I’m not a poet who always writes about political issues, so in that realm, I bring something different to the table. In the other parts of the scene that are more eclectic, I think I bring a different energy and different cadence than the typical slam poetry.
When I first started competing in slams, I thought, “I can’t do what they do. I sound so different.” But sometimes, that’s what the judges like.
Do you have any tips for getting over stage fright?
I don’t know that I would ever get over stage fright. I’m afraid every time I hit the stage. Somehow, I think that fear is important, because if I’m not afraid, I’m not really sharing something real I’m connected to.
I think it’s important to just do it and start in an environment that is friendly, so you don’t have a bad experience. There are so many beautiful places to do that here in Phoenix.
How would you describe the Phoenix poetry community?
It’s epic. You’ve got Aaron over at Lawn Gnome, and he does his job to keep poets thriving to share their work on the mic Thursday nights. You’ve got Firestage over at The Firehouse on third Friday’s. There are lots of options for people to go to. There are Monday nights at Fair Trade Café, and there’s Words in the Alley at Shot of Java on first Tuesday nights in Glendale.
Something that’s disheartening to me is the Valley is so huge, I wish we had more going on in the East Valley. When something starts in the East Valley, it doesn’t typically stay and keep growing, but there are still tons of opportunities to share your poetry.
What are your goals as a poet?
I want to get my book out, and I want to do more shows with a band accompaniment, which I’ve done in the past. I want to grow and be more comfortable on stage. I used to hide behind the mic stand and never hold the mic, and now I take it off the mic stand and walk around and hold it – that’s growth. I also want to travel across the country and share my poetry.
Why should people check out slam poetry in the Valley?
It’s not, “Roses are red, violets are blue.” It’s energy, it’s emotion, it’s raw. It’s poetry on steroids, and everyone should experience it at least once.
Learn more about Phoenix Poetry Slammaster Aaron Johnson here on Phoenix People.