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Black at Rice: Tamaz Young narrates life experiences through poetry

Zeisha Bennett / Thresher

By Murtaza Kazmi     2/21/23 10:31pm

Tamaz Young didn’t begin writing with the intention of becoming a poet, let alone publishing a poetry collection. Instead, Young said that writing served as a way to release his emotions. 

“It started out as a coping mechanism for different things that I was dealing with,” Young, a Wiess College sophomore, said. “But I knew that the best way to release them was to write them down.” 

Young said that his family’s encouragement helped him share his work with others, breaking the boundary of writing in private. 

“For a while, I didn’t share [my poems] with anybody,” Young said “This shift came [and] I shared a couple [with] my mom, who had actually also written poetry when she was in high school, which I didn’t know.”

Because of the personal connection that poetry creates between the writer and the art, Young cites poetry as a unique medium for self-expression. 

“There are a lot of people who like to write poems and don’t share anything at all, but they still hold some value to that person,” Young said. “So for me, it was just a way to translate an experience.”

Young also finds performing, particularly with spoken word, as a rewarding experience. 

I love being on stage and performing poems, and that’s what makes it addictive,” Young said. “You get  three minutes [to] spit a poem. It’s impactful, it’s powerful. That’s something you can’t do with a lot of other genres.”

Through his writing, Young has focused on emphasizing issues surrounding the Black experience in the United States, especially those that are reflected in his own life. His inspiration, Young says, is drawn from a combination of both culturally and personally relevant experiences.

“[There are] a lot of common themes related to police brutality … I’ve written a lot of stuff about fatherhood and absentee fatherism in this country, and specifically Black absentee fathers,” Young said. “That stems from growing up in a home, parents being divorced, being raised by [my] mom, no contact with my dad for years on [end] and altercations with that.”

Young, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., said that his time at Rice has allowed him to explore a certain diversity in the Black community that he previously wasn’t able to. 

“Where I grew up was very amorphous … It’s a very racially segregated area in one of the most segregated cities in the country,” Young said. “So I would say the Black community at Rice is really diverse. And I say that especially because of [Rice African Student Association] and how many international students we have [who identify] as people of color. That was something I definitely wasn’t used to.”

Through his poetry, Young seeks to convey his experiences and in doing so, stimulate readers’ own emotions.

“I write stuff for people … to have an emotional connection and emotional experience,” Young said “You can feel with me and have that sense of connection.”

Young now has two published books: “Unrequited Expressions” and “Token for My Sanity,” the latter of which was published last October. He said that each book came at a different point in his development, both personally and professionally. 

“My first book was to share [with] people, show people, ‘Hey, I’m a poet, this is what I do. This is my work,’” Young said. “And my second book, the introduction is basically saying, ‘Hey, I went through some stuff. I wrote this for me … [it] is really just between me and the book.’”

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