Hattress Barbour III is a man of spoken excellence with his poems not just being words on paper. His poetry transcends beyond a crowd in a bar or lounge, it speaks to the soul and hopes you'll listen.
A male poet with many quirks and talents from poetry and social justice advocacy to fatherhood and entrepreneurship, who exactly is Hattress Barbour III?
Ahh where do I begin. My name is Hattress Barbour III and I am a creative from Harlem, New York. I say creative because the constant need to create is prevalent in all areas of my life, but it’s safe to say that writing has been the medium that I call home.
How do you set the tone to people that your poetry is more than just words? Would you consider yourself a professional?
I’m not sure if I can consider myself a professional writer just yet, but the goal is to make writing my career while still maintaining my own integrity and never forgetting that I started this journey as a means to unearth and understand my own trauma while hopefully touching people in a positive way.
A poet's journey seems endless just like the words they put together, to form a beautiful piece of art.
Outside of writing professionally, I have worked for ten plus years in human services from case management to education and landing in recruitment for companies to ensure I am supporting my people and allowing access to opportunity.
Has poetry always been apart of you in terms of writing in your childhood all the way to adulthood?
Poetry has always been my first love. I fell in love with rap at an early age and would memorize songs just to write them word for word in class when I had extra time. I know now that that was me studying the work of the people I admired and trying to understand this relationship that occurs with language and emotion.
"Poetry has always been my first love."
Hattress's poetry has been apart of him since he can remember. Words of a younger Hattress has set the foundation for the kind of creativity he shares today.
At what age did you start writing poetry?
I started writing poetry at about the age of 12 after watching def poetry jam. I can look back now and say that I was in awe at not only the lyrical ability and techniques, but also the vulnerability being shared. It was such a contrast from where I was from and what was expected of me as a black man. That was the first time I got to experience what representation does to the impressionable youth. I was always a reader, but watching that show made me read differently. I stopped reading as a reader and started reading as a writer.
Since writing became a new discovery of talent for you, whom did you admire as your own writing blossomed?
Studying the works of all the great black writers before me such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and especially Maya Angelou. I wanted to understand what was happening in my brain and heart when I’m touched by their work and how to recreate this feeling in my own authentic way. Maya’s work definitely helped me the most because of her funky rhythm in her stanzas that sometimes rhymed and sometimes didn’t but always felt perfectly placed. I kept writing, everyday, in some way, from that young age but I didn’t start performing poetry until my late 20s.
Hattress explains how he Keeps his energy aLive Amid Explosive Public Recognition!
Rising high in the poetry scene and attending events to make your voice heard can become overwhelming, especially when your art becomes recognized and loved at a high degree. Hattress, being the seasoned writer that he is, handles it the best he can, with a purpose, immense support, and a drive to succeed beyond any obstacle formed against him.
It begins with purpose. It took me some time to understand that everything in my being wants to help. To help myself, to help others, from my personal relationships to my profession, I just want to be of service to people and make an impact whether small or grand. Upon realizing that all of this is way bigger than me as an individual, now it has become a duty of servitude that if I’m being honest I don’t always live up to. I battle my own depression and fears daily and write about these challenges because Maya’s work taught me that no one escapes the human experience. What I’m feeling, someone else is feeling or have felt or will feel and me putting this intangible thing in words makes it more real.
Setting the goal to establish not only your creativity into high places is what Hattress does in his love and life's work of poetry. The love of his partner, family and most of all-his son aka "Lil Hat", is what keeps his creativity soaring!
What does self-establishment mean to you?
Honestly I didn’t think about self establishment until my son. I have an almost 2 year old prince who is the most charming, smartest, sweetest, rambunctious little thing I have ever had the pleasure of being around. My broke best friend deserves the world and I want to ensure he gets it and then some. I realized I can’t allow him the luxury to dive deep into himself and cultivate his life as he sees fit if I don’t myself.
How do you wish to not only succeed in your passion/craft but make sure your son sees all your highs and lows as an example?
He might listen to my words, but the way I live my life will always be more impactful. He was born July 2020 and by October of that same year, I released my first book. Mind you, I had been sitting on this manuscript for about four years and was fearful. When he was born my fear stopped being about me solely and now I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to leave him the tools he needs in this world and fear can be a hell of a motivation.
"IF EVER WE WERE"
A book of Love, Growth and Your inspiration.
Hattress's dreams to inspire stems from a book made out of love, sacrifice, and growth into not only a new person whose strived through obstacles of heartbreak in young adulthood but also new self-worth after losing oneself. "If Ever We Were'" is a book of revelations and realization, a book one can connect and see themselves in through poetry and prose.
What is the overall take away from your Poetry book "IF EVER WE WERE"?
“If Ever We Were” is a guide to black people specifically black boys from adolescence into young adulthood. I made it my intent to tackle concepts like grief, love, lust, family dynamics, social economics, social justice, patriarchy, mental health in the black community, and pretty much every ism I could recall that not only affected myself, but also affected the people around me. As I embarked on the journey of writing this book I realized that what had started out as a personal project for me and me only could actually make people feel seen. I shift gears after this realization and wanted to tell a broader story of experience throughout my poems.
As a poet, your words reach across many people, touching on souls, emotions, and even experiences. You've drawn inspiration from your life into your poetry, but who has given you inspiration as a whole?
It’s so many people to count and mention that I would be feeling like I’m leaving someone out. Honestly, I am inspired by all of my peers who are out here creating and manifesting their life in real and authentic ways. I’m inspired by my friend circle who uplift me and keep my head up in my lowest moments. My family members who offer more than support, but a place where I don’t have to be this “profound poet” and I can just be Hattress or "Lil Hat" as they call me even though my son is Lil Hat now lol. I’m inspired by the family I was blessed to create, my girlfriend who lowkey is a genius and checks me on all my bs so I can’t scapegoat out of becoming a better person. I’m inspired by my son because everyday he is learning more and more and it makes me understand that’s what life is about. I try to live a life full of inspiration and be present in moments so I can pull the lesson from every conversation and interaction.
Out of all the poems in your novel, which one hits close to home for you? Do you have a favorite?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite poem in the book because they all are a part of me. Some I enjoyed writing more than others of course, but the second poem in the book “October 8th” is probably the closest to my heart and all the things I needed to say when I wrote it. “October 8th”, entitled after the date my mother passed away, is me catching my mother up on all the things that has happened with myself and our family since her passing. That was one of the toughest for me to write honestly.
Love is what creates safe spaces and in Hattress's opinion it is "the core of every relationship in my opinion".
Black love in safe spaces is rare, especially in poetic, artistic spaces, what does it mean to you?
"The moment we understand we aren’t perfect and start the process of trying to practice love correctly or in a healthy manner we can heal and therefore heal others. Even as a black writer, which at times, it is challenging to navigate majority white spaces, I have found that the humanity in us is the connection. With that being said, I think if we all show up as ourselves…the works in progress that we are… with an intent to do good and be better then we are operating out of love. "
How has black love impacted you as a poetic artist?
I know learning to love is difficult for most including myself. Truthfully, I wasn't sure if I could love my son the way he needed to be loved. I was so fearful because I never received that type of fatherly love and wasn’t sure if I even knew where to start with my son. Those feelings have since dissipated because obviously lil Hat is my broke best friend and the smartest lil munchkin ever lol. But I’m not unique in that fear. I think as black men who might of lacked certain love spaces as children will contemplate if they are adequate. I think when you love anything you take it seriously enough to dive deep into yourself and analyze your own deficits. That's how you know you love something. When you want to show up as your best self for it.
What locations have you performed your poetry at so far? How was the experience especially if it was your first time there?
I’ve performed in a number of spaces. I started out at an open mic circuit in Harlem with my mentor Brother Earl and I would go there every Monday to work on my poems and stage presence. I would definitely say I developed as a performer and a person in that space. I then moved on to do shows downtown in a more white circuit and while I was learning, I was also understanding who I was writing for and to who. I realized I write for and to black people and that is and always will be my intended audience. So, after making my money in that circuit I moved on to curate my own open mic space in Harlem to showcase all of my talented peers in a way that is fresh. I’ve been running The Poet Tree open mic for about two years now.
Making and celebrating artistic talent is what keeps creativity alive! Hattress knows the ups and downs of getting your name recognized and even though he pushes for his own, he has no problem putting someone else on the map as well. When you work together, magic does happen!
Have you ever collaborated with other poets for an event or even a poem? If so, how was the experience, who are they?
Issa Ray said "network laterally" and she is very right. A lot of times we want to connect with people who we think are more established, but we already have all the resources we need within our network to create something lasting and real. I’ve collaborated with Yulissa of the transparent radio show on dash network to throw a huge 30th birthday poetry showcase. That was amazing and she is amazing so please check her out. I collab with my brother and awesome poet Smoove Babii who cohosts the Poet Tree open mic with me. I constantly do poems and music with my friends and I think that’s the way to get better and elevate.
Hattress Barbour III's name has become a household, poetic powerhouse in his own right. With his first poetry novel "If Ever We Were" already out into the world for people to relate and firmly digest, Hattress is simply just getting started!
What new projects are you working on? When can your supporters and RGP Muse readers expect new material from Hattress Barbour III?
Well my first book “If Ever We Were” is on Amazon and can be purchased there or through me. I am currently working on a book of poetry called “My Fathers Son” about all the lessons I’ve learned in fatherhood so far while diving into my own relationship with my father. It’s scheduled to release first quarter of 2022.
You recently started a podcast! What's it called and when can supporters and readers expect new episodes?
I’m doing a podcast now called The Poet Tree Podcast ( gotta keep the brand consistent lol) with one of the dopest artists I know, Stony Tony. New episodes drop every Monday on all podcast streaming services. We break down lines of our poems and have discussions around mental health, fatherhood, black love, spirituality, and joke all day while we do it. I also have a host of other projects I have my hands in that I can’t talk about yet but definitely stay tuned.
Poetry is it's own message. A poet's spoken word harmonizes with one's thoughts and emotions, an endless feeling of what comes to mind and heart. Hattress Barbour III has become a household name in his own right, with his poetry touching hearts across the board. He has shared his story and finally, he shares his personal message with readers and gives advice to those who don't know how to get their words loud and known.
What keeps you grounded as more people take more notice to your talent?
I think more than anything I want others to feel like they have a community. I speak about the things that are taboo to speak about. No one wants to talk in a room full of people about how they almost lost themselves. We like to give off the aura that we have it all together, but that mask is a dangerous one. I want to make people feel comfortable acknowledging their demons so they don’t feel isolated. Or as if something is wrong with them. This thing we call life is hard as hell to figure out and we will fall on our face thousands of times and that’s ok.
What message do you carry with you as you travel to perform, write and create your poetry and go about your days?
My advice to anyone looking to embark on whatever journey, is that dedication to the end goal will make or break you. Some people quit when they don’t see instant results not knowing that life changing moment is a day away. That’s how I live. I believe my life changing moment can be today so I have to show up in every space, in every way, and give it all I have. My message is it’s out BUT GET UP!! Because the world depends on us. What keeps me grounded is doing shows and touching people in real life. There’s no better feeling then doing a poem about a difficult time in my life and then having someone come up to me and share their story with me. That keeps me going.
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