“I wanted to become a stronger writer because I know my testimony is someone else’s healing.”
Matthew Vaughn started writing poetry in the third grade, after hearing his uncle do poems around the house and finding inspiration in the poets he learned about in school.
He liked writing his thoughts out, and got really serious about it in high school. At first his love for poetry and spoken word grew because performing gave him a high, and he liked the reaction he got from the audience. But eventually he would dig deeper and get more personal.
“Pretty much, starting out, it’s about me, me, me. That’s pretty much every artist. When you start creating, you start home.”
Matthew says that people assume spoken word is about social problems and being mad at society, which it can be. But now, he tries to consider the little things.
“I began to just pick up on things and just, try to write about the little things in life that people forget about sometimes. Like, people get upset at rainy days but, this is feeding the world. It’s cleansing the earth, and stuff like that,” he says. “Little stuff like that I like to write about now. Kind of like, nature, how that connects back to humans, how we’re really not that different from anything.”
Matthew’s doing poetry full time. Later this month he’s performing in Cleveland with A Piece of Her and Underdog Academy for a special National Poetry Month show, and in Columbus for Broken English 101 at Shadowbox Live. It doesn’t pay the bills quite yet, but that’s something he’s working toward.
“Definitely want to be something where I can say I don’t work any other job but poetry,” he says. “Like, poetry is my job. Period.”
Matthew is a part of Underdog Academy, a collective of poets making a name and a platform for themselves in the city and on social media. The collective consists of Tripp Fontane, ProPHessorX, Hyer x Conscious, Atlas the Poet, Christian, and Matthew. He just joined last year, but the collective started in 2014. It started as a way to get their vision out, and amplify their voices in a way that wasn’t already being done before.
One way this is done is with #FreeMyBars, a Twitter open mic where anyone can post a video of themselves performing a poem, takes over the timeline every Wednesday. People all over the country get involved, and in March, amid the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, one poem went viral.
— Latrice (@ladybird_trice) March 9, 2017
The movement has grown a lot, especially since last fall, Matthew says. For the month of April, recognized as National Poetry Month, the group have written prompts for poets to address each week. They’re is also working on a project, while Matthew is working on a spring EP to follow Coldest Winter, his debut project which dropped in February.
Matthew plans to drop a project for every season this year. He’ll follow Coldest Winter with In The Key of Spring, dropping in late May or early July. With this project the vibe will be more uplifting and melodic, he says, and he’ll be flexing some vocals as well.
Matthew first realized his words have power after a poem he wrote brought his uncle to tears. The poem was about Matthew’s father, but his uncle connected it with his relationship with his own father, Matthew’s grandfather.
Depending on the poem, Matthew says he can be put in a space like this. Spoken word is like acting, he says, so putting yourself in the mental space to perform can be heavy.
“I’ve gone off the stage from doing the saddest poem that you have ever heard and then be perfectly fine,” he says. “But then again I’ve done poems and then I’ve been like, ‘Hold up real quick, imma talk to you in a little bit. Right now let me just settle down.’
“Just, certain things that you have to put into account an artist and as a person as well, because this is your actual life.”
“I guess when I’m off though, if I feel like I did well and crowd reaction is cool, then I feel good. Like, no matter what, sad, happy, angry, like I feel good that my piece was received,” he says. “‘Cause that’s just all I want to do, is be heard and received.”