Anubis is in a poetic realm of his own. Step into his world from his poetic beginnings to now!
TheArtistAnubis has established a poetic empire from the start-up of his successful business and safe space for amateur poets in The Harlem Bomb Shelter to cultivating a community that comes together to celebrate the black arts. Anubis is a creative force that continues to grow in an artistic approach, mentor others who want to succeed in the poetic and entrepreneurship scenes, and inspire anyone that hears his story and spoken word.
Who is The Artist Anubis-poet, author, entrepreneur, creator, ambassador, cultural and community curator?
I was born Luther D. Isler in the Bronx, New York, but was blessed to move to Harlem by the age of 5. Not only was I enveloped and raised in the arts and culture, but I groomed in youth performance companies including Harlem School of the Arts, Maie Brooks, Pan-Caribbean Dance Company, and, most influentially, IMPACT Repertory Theatre, where I later became the Director of Admissions. IMPACT was not only an arts company but was a youth activism organization where I was mentored by Voza Rivers, a theater producer and cultural impresario, and Jamal Joseph Sr., a film professor, and Black Panther Party member. I learned that if I put my thought in rhyme and rhythm, people would listen to what I had to say.
The Journey to the Name "TheArtistAnubis"
Anubis discusses how his powerful stage name came to be.
How did your stage name TheArtistAnubis come to be?
For years I prioritized curating creative spaces for others rather than developing my own artistry, sitting under the radiating waves of masterful wordsmiths. Everything changed in 2019 when I emotionally recovered from a divorce and physically recovered from a slightly less painful surgery after donating one of my kidneys to the eldest of our two daughters. I realized I had a lifetime of personal stories to tell and needed to give myself permission to take my art seriously in order to best serve those stories in hopes to serve those who hear them. This version of me and my artistry would be like nothing I’ve done prior so I chose to drop my former stage names. In my first studio session after this new beginning, I reused a line I had playfully authored ten years earlier that included the phrase “I be Anubis.”
What about the name "Anubis" felt right to you and others that heard it?
My brother, ten years my junior, shouted “That’s it!” And I knew it felt right when he heard it. Anubis is known as the God of death in Egyptian mythology and is often portrayed as a taker of life but in fact, he is a guide through the afterlife and a guardian over the judgment process; this is not much unlike how I’ve lived my life, guiding others on their journeys and build protective spaces… with a penchant for highlighting the darkness in the world. I almost immediately created a new Instagram account dedicated to my art and chose the account name “AnubisTheArtist'' with “The Artist” simply being a clarifier... unfortunately, the login name was taken, so I settled for @TheArtistAnubis and as my popularity grew, many assumed that was my full stage name and I decided it would be. I wish there was a more concise way to tell my backstory but these experiences provided the elements that influenced the young man who would aspire to impact the world through words, arts, and advocacy. Performing on a stage was the most exhilarating feeling and performing words that could change lives gave meaning to my performances.
The Harlem Bomb Shelter is Born!
The mission of HBS is to create a safe space and a brave space for spoken word artists and artists of various levels and forms to feel encouraged to express themselves and use their craft to develop themselves and connect with others in a way that not only benefits themselves but also their local communities and the world around them.
When artists come together, it's an atmosphere of joy, togetherness, and a deep love for creativity and individual uniqueness. Anubis has established that atmosphere in his Spoken Word/Open Mic Events and his program/business/organization. The Harlem Bomb Shelter-a place where spoken word poets and artists can come together and share their lives and experiences through poetic expression.
Outside of your own poetry, you have established your own safe haven for poets and artists to come and share their spoken word and creativity-How did The Harlem Bomb Shelter: Spoken Word Open Mic & Showcase come to be?
As a young adult, I became the president of my Harlem-based fraternal organization, the Order of the Feather, where I hosted occasional open mics as a way for the community to have a safe space to express themselves like I had growing up. It was a loose, laid back, and inconsistent offering primarily attended by members of the related organizations, though we began to draw local poets including NYC Youth Poet Laureate, Zora Howard. At the conclusion of my term, Zora invited me to an open mic she was hosting in Harlem. The event was a gathering of amazingly talented young poets serious about their craft, many of which came from Urban Word, a teen poetry development program in downtown Manhattan that I had participated in for a while. I asked when the next one would be and she said that this was a one-time event. It was then, in Fall 2011, that I decided to create an ongoing public poetry program in Harlem, as an alternative to the popular Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, and the plethora of venues in other parts of the city. While sitting in my video editing suite in the basement of the New Heritage Theatre office, ruminating on this endeavor, a mentor of mine called me and asked me where I was, to which I jokingly replied, “I’m in the bomb shelter.” BOOM! That would be the open mic.
More on the Harlem Bomb Shelter Beginnings!
How did your community of friends bring your open mic showcases together?
With the help of my closest friends and fellow entrepreneurs, Emila Ottoo and Craig Sidberry, a childhood friend and playwright I reconnected with at Zora’s event, Jaylene Clark Owens, and culturally engaged visual artist I met by chance, Robyn “Lady Be” Baxter, developed the proposal for the poetry cafe and Voza River, executive producer of New Heritage Theatre, signed on to produce my project. My goal for the open mic was to create a completely uncensored first amendment space. Voza insisted that half of it be a showcase of vetted artists which will appeal to potential supporters and on March 22, 2012 “The Bomb Shelter: Harlem’s Spoken Word Speakeasy” was launched. In May, Imani “Lyrical Faith” Wallace joined the team of founders, booking our first showcase feature and the platform was renamed “The Bomb Shelter: Harlem’s Spoken Word Open Mic & Showcase” … because having to explain to our peers what a “speakeasy” is was not working.
What is the mission behind H.B.S and how do you help communities in artistic spaces, especially for poets just starting out?
At the approach of our seven year anniversary, we changed the name again to “ Harlem Bomb Shelter” and recognized “Open Mic & Showcase” as the flagship program of the many programs we’ve come to create and curate, including writing workshops, a hip hop group and album, a dance group and dance workshops, a short-lived self-defense workshop, outdoor community concerts, and summer youth employment programs. The mission of H.B.S is to create a safe space and a brave space for spoken word artists and artists of various levels and forms to feel encouraged to express themselves and use their craft to develop themselves and connect with others in a way that not only benefits themselves but also their local communities and the world around them.
Anubis: Burning Powerful Visions
Poetry isn't just for one's self. It's about spreading the word of one's inner thoughts, experiences, and soul. In Anubis' novel " My People Burn and Other Visions", he tells his life experiences through the heavy power of poetry. Painting pictures of what he's dealt with as a man from divorce to love. It's a deep novel filled with triumphs and tribulations that leaves you with a sense of realization that life is only what you make it.
What is your novel "MY PEOPLE BURN and Other Visions" about?
“My People Burn and Other Visions” is a poetry anthology of poems that speak to who I am as an artist, a man, a Black man, a father, a divorcee, and a hopeless romantic finding myself through trials and triumphs. The original idea of this anthology was honestly an attempt to accomplish something before feeling depressed on my 35th birthday. My birthday was coming and the first book I wrote, “#DadLife '' which was an anthology of 40 plus pieces inspired by raising my two daughters, did not get picked up by any publishing company so I felt I needed a win. As I began organizing my favorite and most celebrated performance pieces, the book began to take shape into something bigger than I imagined. I curated and edited old poems and wrote a few new poems for three months before handing a draft to a few friends for feedback. Then I considered quitting the project.
How was your experience in writing this novel? What about your friends and family's reaction to it?
I had grown so much as a writer since I authored some of the poems and was painfully aware of how much better I wanted to be. My father and mentors encouraged me to complete the book; not because it was good, but because I could always make another book, and the energy I put out will draw future fans and potential partners more than the book itself. So for three days, I worked without sleep to ensure the final version of the book would be ready for printing and distribution before my birthday. Self Publishing my book was the best decision I ever made. The sheer act of publishing the book created a snowball of opportunities I never would’ve imagined including getting booked for two featured performances in Hawaii; one of which I recorded and released as a live poetry album. The title of my book “My People Burn and Other Visions'' comes from my poem “My People Burn” and the first group of poems in the book that speaks to the hardship and history of Black people; “and Other Visions” was added to demonstrate that the book illustrates other aspects of life from my point of view.
You've ventured into entrepreneurship by creating your own apparel line "Visions" derived from your anthology novel-how was the creating process for this line?
The “I Heart A Kidney Warrior'' hoodies and T-shirts have a much different story. My eldest of two daughters was born with chronic kidney disease. In 2019, I was blessed to be her kidney donor. Since 2018, I have worked with the National Kidney Foundation fundraisers. I started selling apparel where all the proceeds go to NKF to support the work they do and, in 2021, one of the designs I sold included images of my daughter and me, before and after surgeries, celebrating both of us as “Kidney Warriors'' along with all the kidney donors and kidney recipients like us. It so happens that last Fall, I came in 3rd place in a popular online poetry slam competition by doing three poems about my experience with kidney disease and donation. I will be performing one of the pieces at the NKF Gala this March. But I will probably wear a suit instead of one of my hoodies.
What are the backstories to some of the phrases placed on the apparel such as "I Heart A Kidney Warrior", "We Be Gods", and "MPB-Apples".
At the height of the pandemic and protest crossover event, I became popular for performing a piece called “My People Burn.” I learned it was a good idea for artists to have merchandise so that was the first design I made; apparel that quoted the chorus from “My People Burn.” Everything came full circle when designing a new line of apparel inspired by poems in the book and I named it my “Visions Collection” distinguishing it from my original “My People Burn” collection. “MPB” is just short for “My People Burn.” I took some of my favorite quotes from the book including “We Be Gods,” a powerful line in the empowerment poem “Beloved,” “Massage My Beard” from the erotic poem “A Nubian Oil,” and the apple pie ingredients from the fan-favorite poem “Apples.” For the book, I created a version of my logo with a fire design so I incorporated that throughout this line of merch.
A Stellar Performance
Anubis shares his experiences of performing spoken word live
Performing your art in front of audiences isn't an easy feat-nerves escalate and doubt can set in but for Anubis, it's second nature. He gets into his element and gives his audiences a written song from deep within. He shares with readers where he's performed thus far.
You've performed many of your poetry pieces in various spaces. What places have you performed live thus far?
When I was sixteen, I wrote a poetry play and fifteen years later I got to direct, produce, and perform in it alongside seven amazing poets and actors at an Off-Broadway theater. That may be the “biggest” stage I’ve gotten to perform my own work so far.
Since becoming more serious in your performances, have the venues changed as well?
Since pursuing my own poetry more seriously, I’ve performed at many local open mics, lounges, and showcase events around New York City including the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, Harlem Week, and the New York City Marathon. After publishing my book, I got to perform a half-hour set in Hawaii for a live performance album I released last Fall. However, my upcoming performance for the National Kidney Foundation Gala will be the most meaningful performance of my life so far, and I expect many opportunities to follow.
Established Beyond Limit
How do you see your brand as TheArtistAnubis expanding beyond what you've already established?
In many ways, I’m still finding and developing my brand as TheArtistAnubis. I know what I do well and what makes me unique but there’s so much room for how I can present and explore those things. I do a lot of pieces about painful elements of the Black experience and many about finding empowerment through that, but I aspire to be equally as powerful at illustrating the human experience. My poems about donating a kidney to my oldest daughter are a step in that direction. From that, I aim to be a spoken word spokesman, of sorts, for living kidney donation. I have many life experiences that translate into stories we all relate to that I’ll be telling all over the world with my unique wordplay and afterlife angle, incorporated into theater and music.
Life, Death, And Reborn
Life, Death, and Being Reborn are referenced heavily in your poems, why? What is it about the idea of life and death that resonates so deeply for you?
I have a line, “But isn’t death the most faithful friend of life; motivating the greatest time of our life within our lifetime?” This sums up how I view death and half of how I apply it to my poetry. The inevitability of death (of people, relationships, and beliefs) is what makes life so precious. It’s why we build monuments and legacies. It’s why we give our loved ones flowers while they can still smell them. The other half of my inspiration comes from a quote by Mik Everett, “If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.” We as writers have the power to immortalize people and moments in a way that could last forever. I think of the thousands of rich cultural traditions dedicated to celebrating life after death and I’m inspired by the light that comes from that darkness. 100 years after I die, someone’s life will be touched by something written in this interview, and I think about things like that all the time.
Follow TheArtistAnubis via:
Facebook: @The Harlem Bomb Shelter
Read his article in RGP Muse Magazine's 4th Issue-PDF and Print Copy Format via https://www.rahwaygirlzpublishing.com/wynter