Artist Spotlight: Mikala Rempe


Emma Bartley

Meet Mikala Rempe – my partner in crime. The empty voids in both of our lives were filled the day we were brought together as assistant poetry editors for AmLit. If you’re wondering what that position even is, it
basically just means that we get to geek out about poems while excessively using the words “dude” and “literally,” along with a somewhat shameful list of colorful expletives. Rest assured, while this girl most definitely talks the talk, she can also walk the walk. At the AmLit open mic early this semester, she wowed everyone with her slam piece, “Early Onset.” So, without further adieu, enjoy these wise musings from the ultimate poetry babe herself.

What got you into slam poetry? When did you start?
I started slamming at the start of my senior year of high school. I have been writing short stories and poems pretty much since I could spell, and I started to watch slam videos on Youtube and became obsessed with the art and the way that page meets stage. I didn’t really gain the confidence to join a team until my best friend forced me into it. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It’s amazing the sense of community you gain from slam.

Talk a little about your writing process. Where does most of your content seem to come from? How have you played around with form? In what ways do you use – or perhaps avoid – certain formal elements of poetry, like rhyme and rhythm?
Coming from a slam background I now write for cadence and sound above anything else. When I write poetry I have to read all of my lines out loud, just to find where my voice naturally builds and falls. I like to play with form in unconventional ways. Lots of slam poets do list poems where they number each stanza, so I like to play with that form. I have a poem about my dad’s battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. One test to diagnose Alzheimer’s is to ask the patient to count backwards from 100 by 7’s to test their cognitive state. So in this poem I number my stanza 100…93…86… and so on, like the test. I absolutely loathe traditional rhyme scheme, like nothing turns me off from a poem more, but I am in love with internal and slant rhyme.

Have you written much poetry outside of the slam genre? If so, describe how your writing process for these poems differs from writing slam.
Hmm, not so much right now. But I will say that I don’t think that the majority of slam poems transfer well to the page, so I definitely want to try my hand at more academic poetry. I also tend to write longer poems, so I want to play around with shorter poems and see if I can still write evocatively.

How are you pursuing your passion for poetry at American?
I work with AmLit’s poetry genre and it has been so eye opening to see what other people appreciate about poetry. All of the other editors make comments on poetry that I never would have thought to comment on. Everyone that came to the AmLit poetry review sessions made me appreciate poetry so much more, and the feedback has pushed me to make my own writing better.

Whether it’s other poets, musicians, or visual artists, what creative work has influenced your own writing?
I could talk about influences for days! I always write to music, and it can range anywhere from some old school Frank Sinatra or lately I’ve really been into Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. I definitely would say whatever I’m listening to is reflected in my writing. My favorite slam poets are Sam Cook from the twin cities and Jeanann Verlee from NYC. I could seriously listen to their poems all day. My favorite page poet will always be Langston Hughes, like if I ever have a son I will probably name him Langston. I also just feel the need to admit my love for Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, I can only reread that novel if I am okay with my view on life being completely flipped upside down… that book is probably the reason I am a literature major.