Natasha Denise Hooper is a twenty-four-year-old poet, spoken word artist, activist and host. She is originally from Austin, Texas but is currently residing in San Diego, California. Hooper’s work has been featured on a variety of prominent outlets such as Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, and All Def Poetry.
Her interest in writing and performing began in high school after watching a lot of spoken word performances on YouTube.
“Eventually, I was inspired enough to write my own poem and perform it at the school’s talent show. I got a lot of good feedback after that, so I decided that maybe I was pretty good at it,” Hooper said.
Hooper began competing in slams at the end of 2015. In 2017, she ranked eleventh in the largest women’s poetry competition, the Women of the World Poetry Slam. She was also a featured member on the San Diego Poetry SLAM team, making it number one in the nation on her second trip to the National Poetry Slam in Denver, Colorado.
“There were a lot of different transitions going on in my personal life [in 2015] and I was missing the feeling of being on stage. I won about 4 slams in a row and everything just kind of took off from there,” Hooper said.
Hooper feels that writer’s block can be a tricky thing, in that some people claim that it doesn’t exist. She isn’t sure if she holds the same belief and develops ideas through a variety of methods.
“If I ever feel like I can’t get an idea out, I usually try to immerse myself in creative spaces: art, music, poetry… That usually helps,” Hooper said. “Inspiration usually comes to me very randomly, whether it’s through a conversation or silent introspection or even just people watching. I try my best to be aware and present in each moment and that’s usually when an idea sparks.”
For Hooper, each piece functions differently in her life and take a different amount of time to write. Editing plays a monumental role in her creative process.
“Sometimes, I’ll be so inspired by an idea that I can write a full first draft within an hour. Other times I’ll start on a poem and won’t revisit it for months. It all just depends,” Hooper said. “Editing is one of the most vital things to me. There is almost always a different or better way to say something. Your first draft will never be your best.”
Hooper does not have a definitive estimate of how many poems she writes per month due to her focus on continuously fleshing out previous incomplete ideas. She typically selects which poems to perform based on their significance to her.
“If something is too personal I might have to work myself up to it and some poems I will never perform because I know they were written to help me cope in some way and that is the purpose they will serve,” she said.
Hooper’s most famous pieces, such as “Islamophobia,” which was performed with San Diego’s Elevated! team at the 2016 National Poetry Slam Finals in Atlanta, Georgia, have reached over 134,000 views on YouTube.
“The poem I enjoy performing the most is usually the newest poem I’ve written. Performing the same poems over and over can be a little monotonous, so it’s always fun to be able to do something fresh,” Hooper said.
Within the span of two years, Hooper has showcased her work at prominent poetry venues across the country including the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Her work has also allowed her to travel and perform internationally.
“Some of my favorite experiences with poetry have been all the national competitions I’ve been able to attend, performing at different colleges and universities, and of course, getting the opportunity to perform at a conference [the South American Business Forum] in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” she said.
For readers interested in becoming more involved in the poetry community, she advised to watch other poets and read many books, as well as more personal aspects of writing.
“Always be yourself. Be honest in your writing; no one can tell your stories like you can. Also, do not compare yourself to others. To quote Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’” Hooper said.
Poetry has primarily affected Hooper’s personal and professional life by introducing her to new places, people, and ideas.
“Slam or poetry in general helps me to scratch my creative itch and ultimately has opened up so many opportunities for me. I’ve been able to travel just off the strength of creativity and I’m excited to see where else these words take me.” Hooper said.
On Natasha Hooper’s website, you can check out her poetry, or you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram and on Facebook.