Edgardo Aguilar, a Tucson native, former Desert View High School student, and now a University of Arizona freshman acquired one more important title this year: “2019 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion.”
The Daily Wildcat spoke with Aguilar to discuss his inspirations, his experiences, his thought process behind his poems and his favorite lyrics at the moment.
Daily Wildcat: How did you grow an interest for poetry? Where did the passion come from?
Edgardo Aguilar: I wouldn’t say poetry became a big passion for me. Poetry’s existence really came into my life through rap music, hip-hop, a lot of the music I listen to. I didn’t start writing poetry ‘til about my sophomore year in high school. At that point, it was more of something I was just, you know, flirting with a bit. I remember I did a poem for a class project and it was just a quick little thing you know, just noodling around with it, see what I can do. It was fun, but when I got really passionate about it was the next year, junior year, when I wrote three poems to three people who were pretty much going to be gone from my life. One of them was a senior and she was a good friend so I decided to write her a poem. The other two were for twin sisters who I was really close to, so I just had to give them a big thank you because they weren’t going to be in my life a whole lot anymore. I wanted to let them know how they impacted me and how I felt about them.
DW: What are the major themes and messages that are prevalent in your poems?
EA: Lately, it’s been really different. Different styles of poems, different messages. Some are deep, some are mundane, you know, some are just real funny and silly, things like that. When I started writing my big personal poem in the beginning of my senior year. I didn’t finish it towards the end. I’d say that one was probably my deepest poem. That one was just about, well, I wouldn’t say just about, it about a lot of things, but the main points in it are solidarity, becoming a man and being okay with being vulnerable.
DW: What is it about the artists and lyricists like Nas and Rakim that inspired your poetry?
EA: When you hear from a very young age, you don’t necessarily get the message. You like the rhythm, you like their flow or you like the way they have a spin on words. So you mimic that. Eventually, you know all the lyrics to the song and you sing along to it or whatever. It is not until you get older where you start to think about what you’re saying. Some of these cats like Rakim, Nas, Eminem, Tupac, they make you start to think about what messages they are really saying in their rhymes. It speaks a lot to people who are from low income areas they see certain bad things in their schools and their everyday lives, but they’re being real about it and they’re saying something that you can relate to, at least I can relate to. I mean, not all the times, but there are certain things that you can relate to. It’s just truthful.
DW: You’ve written dozens of poems over the years. You mentioned it earlier, but tell us about a poem that still resonates with you and still impacts you.
EA: Yeah, that’ll be my senior poem. I spent the whole year working on that. I was in class and sometimes a phrase would come to me, so I would write it down. It’s a long poem, around four pages, if I recall. I felt like I might as well stand in the room naked just because of how exposed I felt when I wrote that poem. It felt good. I was able to have a direction of where I wanted to go with the poem. The journey getting there gave me time to discover what I really wanted from high school on out. It really led me into a direction of realizing that I don’t want college to be my only focus. I want college to be my secondary type of thing. I have a goal to just be a decent man, which doesn’t seem too hard to obtain. I want that to be my primary goal.
DW: You now hold the title of the “2019 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champ.” Congrats on that. What does this mean to you? How has it impacted your life?
EA: You know, I’m not real braggadocious. It doesn’t really mean too much to me. Even at the very beginning at the school competition, I was thinking I already got this far, it’s cool. It just so happened that it kept going and going and I just stuck to my guns and let it ride. Luckily I was able to get that far. But I’d say the best part and the most educational part didn’t really come from the trophy or the hype. It really came from what happened after the national competition, when we all went down to the basement and all had a poetry circle. We all just recited poems, some people sang, some people made up funny poems. Eventually, we just started playing games with each other it was just fun. We did that till 5 in the morning. That was the best part, just because 48 hours ago, I didn’t know you and now here we are in the basement of a hotel and we just are really spilling out how we feel and we’re relating to each other. We felt like there was some type of connection, like we were intertwined in a way, even if we’re from different parts of the country.
DW: Looking at the next couple of years, what does your future in poetry look like?
EA: It’s hard to say. I don’t have a set plan, like “Okay, I want to become a professional poet or whatever.” I do plan to continue writing, whether it’s strictly a personal thing or if I don’t get anything from it, whatever the case I’m fine with that. Writing poems on my own is a reward in itself. I just want to find a tone, I want to find a voice, I want to find a style, a signature thing.
DW: Do you have plans to get involved with the UA Poetry Center and bring in your innovative ideas?
EA: I would like to see what I can do there. I made it a point to at least get involved in a creative writing class in the future, which it will give me more time to develop my tone, my style and get more comfortable when doing poetry. But I know that when I need to get away from home, or get away from school, I can head down to the Poetry Center and study, relax and gather myself.
DW: Lastly, we have gathered lyrics from some of the artists that may or may not have inspired you. We would like to see what you think about these lyrics and how you interpret them. First up is “Back When” by Nas. “Before there was an audience to watch us — I assure you there was a process.”
EA: Yeah. Before the fame, there was a process. I don’t know if Nas actually did do it, but I know a lot of cats from New York, they would go down and battle. Have you ever seen the movie 8 Mile? You know towards the end, or even in the beginning, they have rap battles. Well, they would battle each other, and it was a way of going there and show off your skills. But when he talks about the process, I think he is talking about grinding out lyrics, finding a flow, writing on your own before anyone was interested.
DW: Next one is “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon. “I grew up on the crime side, The New York Times side / Staying alive was no jive / Had secondhands, Mom’s bounced on old man / So then we moved to Shaolin Land.”
EA: Raekwon The Chef. I mean if you understand the slang, it’s pretty self explanatory. In that moment, he was saying he was born in a low economic class, mom bouncing old man, probably dad was being a bad person, so the mom decided to leave to Shaolin Land, which I believe is Staten Island. So, that’s where really everybody from Wu Tang came together.
DW: Are there any other lyrics that you’re loving right now?
EA: Oh man, there are so many right now, but I’m thinking of one specifically because it really fits the moment. My current transition phase from high school to college. Some people go to college, some don’t, some go to work, some go to the military. Along with that and being more free, because we’re no longer in high school, some people can change and evolve into who they really are. There is one Nas quote from his song “The Message” It goes, “But a thug changes (and) ... love changes and best friends become strangers.” I really like this at the moment because in high school, you grow up with some people you thought you were tight with, but they can change a bit. You think, “Wow, that was not the person I remember.” They’re going over here, you’re going over there, your heart changes. You were best friends, now you’re strangers.
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