El’Ja Bowens is one of the most relentlessly positive people I know: he encourages everyone he meets, raises up other artists, and is consistently working on his own craft and helping grow the spoken word/poetry slam scene here in Fayetteville and across the state. “Purpose over Popularity” is his guiding mantra, yet his focus and kindness makes El’Ja one of the most popular artists around town. He celebrates his birthday at the end of July! Show him some love by attending one of his virtual events and purchasing his work. Don’t forget to follow him on the socials for the October release of his upcoming book 3:10: A Poetic Journey Through Life Hacks
The professional bio: LeJuane (El’Ja) Bowens is an award-winning spoken word artist, poet, speaker, and author. He is also the first poet to have his work in the Obama Art Museum located in Raleigh, NC (the first and only of its kind in North Carolina). In 2014, he was recognized as the first ever NC Poet to compete in three major Grand Slam Finals in three different cities in North Carolina the same year. He is the founder/director for the Southeast Regional NC Poetry Festival in Fayetteville, NC and he has featured on Poetry Slam Inc and All Def Poetry on YouTube. He also hosts Nerd Slam competitions at numerous comicons across the US. Cashapp: $eljapoetry
Favorite Local Third Place: It’s a three way tie actually. The Sweet Palette for its art gallery for local artists. Winterbloom Tea for its laid back vibe, and Stop_Button because of the gamer/Nerd in me.
3 Things you can’t live without: Family, creativity, and faith
Local artist (any genre) you admire: Hands down: Neil Ray. He is a mentor of mine and many others and he is one of the few that gave Fayetteville the poetry scene. He is considered the Godfather of Poetry and many writers in the area would agree that he earned that title.
A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: Playing the guitar. Been at it for a month and a half now so I can only go up from here.
What is one of your current artistic experiments: Online events. I’ve been able to create two events: one being based off of nerd discussion while the other interviews artists from all artforms. I was blessed to have Tony Todd from “Final Destination” and “Candyman” to be our first guest and there are many more to come.
Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work: My wife, Monica Haynes Bowens. She’s always motivating me, always challenging me. She knows how to pull out what I need to create at the moments when I don’t see it.
What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Keep writing, keep creating. Greatness does not come overnight and the more you give yourself goals to accomplish, the better it is for you to not become stagnant.