Conversations in the Author's Corner: Dominic "Nerd" McDonald
About the Author: Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, also known as Nerd the Poet, is a young Black entrepreneur and spoken word artist from various cities in Los Angeles, California now living in the DC Metro area. He has put his views on growing up in the inner city between two households, Hip Hop music, being a social outcast, college experiences, and more on paper and created everything from screen plays to magazine articles. In January, 2022 he founded Nerd the Poet Productions, a Poetic Event & Consulting company that curates art-share opportunities and recreational entertainment through spoken word. His passion comes from serving the community, especially through the arts. He is the 2022 winner of the Day 8 Publishing's "DC Poet Project."
Dominic McDonald Abridged Transcript
Lena Crown: You mention in the preface that this book is a continuation of the poem “Monster” in your first book. Could you tell us a bit about that poem and how this book grew out of it?
Dominic McDonald: “Monster” is a poem in which I relate myself to some of the monsters in literature. The Black American experience is to be considered a monster, and not just something that people are afraid of but something they don't understand. But also, in a sense, much like Frankenstein, which was the one I related to the most, like, we are people that we pieced together from what we think a person should be. That leads into I'd Rather Be Called a Nerd, because now I’m exploring the full, holistic perspective of what it is to have those expectations put on you and to resist them as well.
LC: How did the book’s title poem come into being? Did it all come out at once, or did you work on it over time?
DM: I actually wrote this poem for a pageant. It was a Scholarship Pageant that I won. I was doing spoken word at Cal State Long Beach, and I was prompted to write this because people would often ask, Why do I call myself a nerd? “Nerd” to me isn't offensive as calling myself a n-word. I wanted to show the duality in where I stand: I’d rather be called this than something that has these other negative connotations.
LC: How do you go about translating poems from spoken word to written word, if that’s the direction you usually move in?
DM: There is a difference for me between spoken word and writing. I am a student and a child of hip hop. I remember getting albums, and they used to put the lyrics to the songs in the booklets. I remember reading them, and I think back on that when writing: I want my written work to be received, so I write it in a way that gives integrity to the English language, because I do have a degree in English. So I was strategic in certain decisions, putting -ing instead of -in’ at the end of words, things like that. I want you to be able to say the words out loud and read them with your internal voice and have it be consistent.
LC: You mentioned at our author panel earlier this week that the book is somewhat of a memoir in verse, and that really comes through in your writing about Los Angeles. The speaker of the poems has a complicated relationship with LA – could you talk a bit more about the writing of “LAX LAX Land” and how where you grew up makes its way into your work?
DM: That poem shows the juxtaposition of being from a land of opportunity, and also questioning the opportunities growing up in these different areas. And there's a line in which I said, “Why leave this paradise of beach bums, money parasites, and druggies?” On the outside looking in, you would think this is the best place to be. But being from the inside, how people live is not so picturesque, it's not so camera-worthy. I wanted to have that be the backdrop of the book, along with personal issues coming of age and grappling with identity.
LC: I loved the tone of these poems. I’m curious about your relationship with anger – do you ever write from a place of anger, and if not, where do you write from emotionally?
DM: There's a scene in the first Avengers movie where the Doctor has to turn into the Hulk. Captain America says, “Now's a good time to be angry.” And he says, “Well, that's my secret. I'm always angry.” And I think that's the Black American experience from my standpoint. There's always something for me to be angry about, when it comes to injustice and inequality and scarcity. But how do I turn that into something that invites people to understand, so that change can happen, or that will invite people to become an ally? I listen to a lot of hip hop, and I think hip hop is very angry. It expresses this: You are acting like you don't see us. But we're right here, we're in the streets. And we're visible. A lot of revolutionary spoken word poetry did the same as well. So I kind of follow behind that as my covenants and my guide on how to write these pieces. So to fully answer your question, my relationship with anger is to turn it into poetry.
LC: We ask all our author’s corner authors to tell us a bit about their publication process and the journey to publishing this book. What was it like working with Day Eight?
DM: Before I won the DC Poet Project, I never saw myself being published through a publisher. As a Black man, talking about social injustice and racism, I didn’t think anybody would put their money behind it. So I was happy that Day Eight is interested in Black voices and voices of the community of Wards 7 and 8 in DC. And it's also been something new for them, because for the past couple of contests, we were in the pandemic, so a lot of things have been virtual. So this is the first time where someone is going out and doing events and readings. I worked with a booking agent, and as a self-starter, it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders not to have to do a lot of the legwork. Meeting other writers doing a lot of these literary life type of practices has been a beautiful part of the experience for me.
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About The Inner Loop: The Inner Loop is a literary reading series and network for creative writers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. We aim to create a space for both emerging and established writers to connect with their community, and to transform the written word into a shared experience through the act of reading aloud. This interview is part of our Author’s Corner campaign, promoting local authors publishing with indie presses.