WMNF supports and gives a platform to local artists around the Tampa Bay area. If you’re a poet who would like to be featured throughout our airwaves and website, we’d love to hear from you! You can apply HERE.
WMNF’s Poet of the Month is Zach Katz!
Zach Katz is a poet, storyteller, Mental Health Counselor, and educator originally from Staten Island, NY. He has shared his work as a featured performance poet at venues throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Most recently, he has performed Off-Broadway as a featured spoken word artist in New York City at the renowned Triad Theater. After relocating to Tampa, Florida, he continues to perform at events throughout the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg area. Zach’s work has been published in anthologies by NYSAI Press and ASEI Arts. In the past, he has taught English within the NYC Public School system. Currently, he works as a psychotherapist providing mental health treatment to adults, children, families, and couples. Zach holds a BA in English Education and an M.S. Ed. in Mental Health Counseling. He is licensed to practice Mental Health Counseling in the states of New York and in Florida, where he currently resides.
Where You Need To Be
I am in my therapist’s office
There is a sign above my head that reads
You are exactly where you need to be
I cannot see that sign from where I sit.
I am complaining about how my friends have better lives than me.
My therapist tells me,
“Compare equals despair.”
She then tells me to think about who I am now
Compared to who I was years ago.
Compare how much more I have accomplished.
I look at her with a flat face that reads
“What did we just say about comparing?”
I go home and clean out a bedroom in my childhood house
In one month this bedroom goes to a little boy whose name I do not know
From a family who is not my own.
Every drawer I open is a quintet
Within a poem describing the last 28 years.
In the night stand next to the bed.
There is a trophy from a karaoke contest in 1996
I sing The Barney Theme Song
I love you, you love me
This will be the last time my love will go so requited.
A drawing that I colored in 1995
A stick figure, me, is running from another stick figure, my brother.
We follow along track that goes a circle
No matter how much we run, we never quite find each other .
In The dresser along the wall
Is a drawer that should be an underwear drawer
When I am 17, I fill it to the brim with condoms
When I am 27, they are all expired and
I realize how overzealous I was at 17.
Under my bed is a box filled with
love poems I wrote in 2010 for a pretty girl who I think I loved,
And love letters written to me in 2012 by a pretty girl who I was not ready to love,
And a portrait, drawn for me in 2019 by a pretty girl who’s heart opened up much wider than mine.
On the wall above the bed is a poster with the name of the punk rock band I had played in from 2014 until 2018
A time of green Mohawks and stale beer and girls whose names I never caught but who’s tongues were in my mouth.
Next to the poster is a guitar that I bought for more money than any gig had ever paid me. A guitar I do not play enough.
And I think about karaoke
And Barney the dinosaur
And me and my brother
And more condoms than I will ever use
And the papers with letters that used to spell out ‘love’
And guitars I bought before I could play
And I cry because I am in all these places
I live all these moments
I am in my therapists office
There is a sign above my head that reads
You are exactly where you need to be.
Alice Saunders and D-Rod of WMNF’s Poetry Is (Sundays @ 8pm) were able to talk to Zach about what led him to become a spoken word poet, as well as hearing his perspective as an artist of Tampa Bay. Here is their conversation:
- How long have you lived in the Tampa Bay Area? What brought you to the city?
I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for 10 months. I currently reside in Ybor City. I have had family in Tampa for most of my life and have visited frequently. Progressively over the years, my family has moved down to Tampa from New York. After some years, I decided it was time to follow. I have always loved Ybor for its unique character, culture, arts, and charm.I knew this was where I wanted to be.
- How would you describe your approach to poetry?
Poetry is story, experience, and narrative. My poetry aims to reframe challenge as opportunity, absurdity as humor, and confusion as clarity. My poetry is a triangular conversation. Through poetry, I am able to speak to myself, I am able to speak to my audience, and I allow myself to hear what my audience might be saying to me. I use poetry to see that even in the heaviest moments, there is something silly or light to find gratitude in.
- How has poetry helped you in other areas of your life?
Poetry has allowed me to have another modality of art. Throughout my life, art has always given me confidence. Previously in high school and college, I had played in punk rock bands, and while I had fun, I never truly felt like it was my place. Poetry is my place. It is freedom. It allows a space for humor, rejection, levity, sadness, and every other facet of feeling. When I am performing poetry, I feel like I have a place to be heard. As a therapist, poetry has allowed me to find a space for my own self care. It has shown me I don’t have to carry everything around on my back all day. I can put it somewhere and come back to it when I am ready.
- What is the hardest part of being a poet? What compels you not to quit?
The hardest part of being a poet is that I don’t always feel like a poet. There are periods when I do not write or perform for months. At these times, I sometimes will feel discouraged to continue. I might think, “maybe this was a phase” or “maybe it is on to something else.” What compels me not to quit is that I usually can’t. There will be something that becomes a poem; an experience I have, a conversation I hear, an event I am a part of. One of my favorite novelists has a saying: “Well, do you write? If you don’t, you’re not. If you do, you are.” Well, even when I don’t write for a while, I do. I am.
Want to be WMNF’s next Poet of the Month? Apply HERE!