Apr 11, 2022
The Barbour International Badge of an Original is an honorary mark that is a true representation of those who carve their own path, on their own terms. Our community is united by the shared attitude of confidence, innovation and inherent originality, with a shared passion for creating something new, and most importantly authentic.
As part of our Journey of an Original series uncovering these stories of our community, we speak to London-based Poet James Massiah about his journey, his achievements, and ultimately what being an original means to him.
How did you get started in poetry? Tell us about your journey.
I guess the journey began when I was a kid. In church we’d have to memorize scriptures and Bible verses to recite to the rest of the congregation. Then at school we learnt modern day versions of Shakespeare plays that are written for children - things like The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played the Mad Hatter in our Alice in Wonderland play too. I just got used to the process of memorising large chunks of text and enjoying the response from the audience, whether performing or reciting Bible verses at church. I got a taste for it and wanted to create my own original works that would have the same effect on people. My focus became laser sharp when it came to poetry as my journey.
What is your proudest moment?
I love what I do. I think that every day that I get to write, read my work, to have it displayed or published, is a blessing. There are so many experiences I’ve had across the time I've been writing and performing poetry that it’s hard to isolate any one moment. But any chance is a proud one.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given you, that in turn you would give to others?
I think it probably was and would be to read and listen to and consume as much information about your chosen field or topic of interest as possible. It can be intimidating when you consider how much data is out there but to hone in on a topic and know as much about it as possible can certainly be a help in the long run.
Where do you find your inspiration?
When I was younger, I grew up interacting with all kinds of amazing written works so in terms of the people who inspired me and inspired my journey, they were all great poets such. Mostly, I'm inspired to write about the things that happen to me in my life, my experiences, the things that excite me, scare me, and the things that have made me feel something.
What makes you an original?
I suppose I am an original because my writing style is original. I think of myself as having a confessional writing style, so the stories are unique to me. They’re specific to my experiences, but I hope for my poems catch onto some universally held thoughts and feelings about the human condition, so that other people can relate to them too. I’m not the first person to write a poem and I take influence from existing sources and reference points, but I guess that my take on these topics and themes with my experiences makes them original.
What does being an original mean to you?
I think every person has their own unique and original story to tell. I think that’s what being original is really about - telling your story, in your own original way, that’s authentic to you. Originality is important insofar as it’s about a person’s individual expression but there’s something to be said for the artists who have fallen in love with another artist’s style and replicating it to the point of perfection and then being able to develop it in their own way. You look to the greats and they offer inspiration and then you find a way to chart your own course.
We’d love to hear how you live your life as an original like James, so share your stories with the hashtag #BadgeOfAnOriginal.