Sharing the tales behind the poems he writes


Clarion Staff Photo

Nate Marshall, a poet and instructor at UW-Madison, answers students’ questions during a reading held in the Truax Campus Studio Theater on Nov. 3. Marshall read from his latest poetry book, “Finna.”

Bryce Dailey  , Staff Writer

Accomplished wordsmith Nate Marshall gave a reading of his poetry at Madison College on Thursday, Nov. 3.
The poet read sections from his recent book, “Finna,” an intimate collection of poems relating to themes of Marshall’s life experiences and Black culture. The event was hosted by the Yahara Journal, a Madison College student literature organization.
Following an introduction by the Yahara Journal editor Asime Ibraimi, Marshall began the event by reciting the lengthily titled “Nate Marshall is a white supremacist from Colorado, or Nate Marshall is a poet from the South Side of Chicago, or I love you Nate Marshall.”
The poem tells the story of a man bearing the same name as Marshall, whose racist ideologies strongly contrast with Marshall’s life and beliefs. Marshall delivers his words in a firm yet graceful tone, attempting to reach of point of understanding with this other Nate Marshall, rather than releasing feelings of anger.
“Writing about someone and just trashing them is very easy,” Marshall said. “For me that’s not a helpful stance to approach in poetry.”
Another one of the impactful poems shared was “Only Boy,” which gives a brief look into Marshall’s youth. Marshall gave context to explain the underlying gender and sexism-related theme, which frequently occurs in “Finna.” Marshall brings a unique perspective, being raised into an all-female household with three sisters.
The author later answered audience questions, commenting on his artist process and telling stories from his life. Marshall mentioned a mortifying childhood memory of his three sisters reading his personal journal, which ties to the vulnerability he still feels today when releasing his writing to the masses.
“Luckily, most people don’t read poetry,” Marshall joked.
The author also gives insight into the ways he implements into his work the distinctive personality and culture he gained from being raised in an African American family in Chicago.
“If I’m going to write a sonnet, I’m going to write a sonnet about my neighborhood,” Marshall said.
Marshall has seen great achievement in recent years with his work, which consists of many different mediums from poems to novels. Marshall stated in a recent interview with Southside Weekly that his journey began with writing slam poetry as a teenager, influenced by hip-hop music.
His book writing career started with “Wild Hundreds,” which was awarded Best Poetry Book by the American Library Association, as well as earning him the Best New Writer award from The Great Lakes College Association. The trend of success stayed consistent in Marshall’s career, diversifying his work to the fields of audio drama and writing for theatre.
Marshall has had great involvement in the world of education, as well. He is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has even helped dictate the literary curriculum for public schools in Chicago.