Nate Marshall, author of Wild Hundreds, winner of UPP’s Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, talks about his love for Chicago’s South Side, hip-hop culture’s influence on his work, and fantasy football.
UPP: You are very passionate about the South Side of Chicago, as evidenced in Wild Hundreds, in various interviews and on social media. How would you explain that passion?
NM: The South Side is a beautiful place. It can be a hard and complicated place but those are the most rewarding loves. It’s like what Algren says about loving Chicago “you may well find lovelier lovelies but never a lovely so real.”
UPP: How would you describe your work, in terms of an intersection of poetry, rap and hip hop?
NM: I think my poetry is a direct descendant of the hip-hop culture I came up in. I think you see it all over my work, from the sense of rhythm to the fidelity to telling difficult truths to the way a phrase can bend in small delightful ways. Those are all things I learned in hip-hop and I continue to explore on the page.
UPP: You are very involved with young writers, such as the Young Chicago Authors. What drives you to be a mentor?
NM: I feel like I need to be a mentor. It is the most rewarding work I can do and it’s work that saved my life as a young person. I wouldn’t be living up to the time that people before me put into me if I wasn’t giving that back to the young folks coming behind me.
UPP: You keep a very busy schedule! How do you stay energized?
NM: I’m not sure how I stay energized. I don’t sleep a lot. I should sleep more probably. I think I’m so excited by all the work I’m doing that those things drive me. And I’m excited by the moment we’re in politically, artistically, and culturally. I have to be around to be a part of it.
UPP: What’s this we hear about you being in charge of a fantasy football league?
NM: Me and a few of my homies have had a fantasy football league the last few years. Mostly it’s poets and teaching artists. The league is called “Those Who Can’t Teach Blitz.” It’s a good way to unwind for me. It’s nice to have things you can invest time in purely as a recreation. It’s important.