Roya won the Bowery Poetry Slam on Monday night with ease, but it’s not a competition to her. Just a platform to spread her message and her voice, and if she gets rewarded afterwards, she’ll take it. It’s nothing new for her. She was a member of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s Slam Team, a position that takes a lot of winning-poetry-slams to reach, including their 2014 Grand Slam.

She doesn’t like talking about this sort of stuff – she will, but you have to dig it out a little bit. To her, she’s just one voice in a movement. The movement, the medium, the message, the art, the community – these are the things that are meaningful to her. I understand i’m using a lot of hyphens, but i think we’ll be ok.

It’s the empowerment of disenfranchised that i feel moves her, and it’s why she spends her time as a youth mentor and writing teacher, helping young people with something to say find their own voice, building a community of young writers, poets, speakers, activists, or maybe just a group of young people in touch with their beliefs and their feelings. The Bronx native values that community, and you can see that for yourself in this piece we shot in the first ever ‘Street Noise: BX’ feature, an honest and personal expression of the feeling of being gentrified.

You can find Rosa Marsh on twitter and instagram @issaroya


If Mike from breaking bad was from NYC and decided to start going to poetry slams, he might end up like RAyW. You don’t often see actor, spoken word performer, private investigator, security liaison Vietnam veteran and retired cop on the same resume, but that’s what you have in Ray. His words deal with issues from his world – “fuck tha police” is his response from the other side of the thin blue line to the NWA song and subsequent rallying cry, repeating the refrain “say what you want about us, see what you do without us.” His words are sharp and blunt. It’s not fancy. The rhymes are pretty and clever but the delivery and the message is always hard and clear. “Next time, do us a favor – call your fucking neighbor.”

I swear, he’s a nice guy.

Between tearing into religion and giving the abridged version of the hell that was the Vietnam War, Ray made us stop into Ray’s Beingets to buy his girlfriend an ice cream cone and give me a lesson about the owner, an Iranian immigrant who’s been an East Village staple since 1974. “We can’t come down here and not go to Ray’s Candy Store,” he says to me, chuckling.

The anger in his poems shouldn’t be mistaken for bitterness. The fiery delivery comes not from a place of hate, but one of caring. He cares about the people he loves and the people he serves and gets angry about injustice, whether it be people disrespecting the elderly or the police, or people in places of power taking advantage of children.

Obviously part of the initial appeal is the novelty- it’s always exciting when talent comes unexpected places, and when you first meet Ray, seeming like a character from Full Metal Jacket, you really couldn’t possibly be ready for what’s about to happen. But his poetic prowess goes far deeper than simply a novelty act. His delivery and the way that it compliments what he’s actually saying (and what he’s saying is important) is exceptional and you soon forget why it surprised you in the first place – it becomes clear in a very short amount of time that that’s who he is, as much as he is a cop, a veteran, a private investigator.

He’s an old man with a young plan and he’s not slowing down.

You can find more of him at

A Day With: Ben Roman

Whether its the way he invokes Billy Shakespeare, his particular style of dress, his syntax or his voice, there’s something about watching Benny Roman perform spoken word that makes you feel like you’re in the Renaissance. In one of his pieces “Excuse Me, Miss,” a woman delivers part of a Hamlet monologue to convey her lamentable state. Of course, Ben is the one portraying her. In this way, each of his pieces is like a one-act play, and at a certain point, the term ‘spoken word artist’ gives way to a more powerful title: Storyteller.

And although his vests, theatrical quotes and word choice may sometimes give his work a medieval feel, the content couldn’t be more relevant. In “13 and Brown,” Ben tells the true story of the time he was held at gun point by the police while walking to work. “A Life” paints the picture of the race issues this country is dealing with today, told in front of one of his many poignant watercolor pieces, this one a single hand lying limp on pavement.

Ben’s painting is very much a part of the experience, and he often works on his painting and spoken word in tandem, as if it were all part of the same process. Watching him with a brush is inspiring. While waiting for me to show up on the day of our shoot, he set up in front of the Bethesda fountain. With earbuds in, he flicks his wrist and dabs here and there, stopping every few seconds and changing his perspective or his brush, and interacting effortlessly with anyone who approaches him. At one point in the feature below, a boy asks why he’s not painting any birds- so Ben stops what he;s doing and adds a bird in the corner of his piece.

To me, that sums up Ben Roman as an artist and a person: genuine kindness. His works all deal with the same concept that Matthew Silver preaches in his underwear in Union Square: Love Each Other. Its a simple enough message that’s easy to deflect, but to hear Ben talk about it, it does actually make me want to take my head out of my own ass for a minute and pay attention to the beauty all around me, stop being so angry at everyone for trivial things and start smiling more. Hopefully he’ll have the same effect on you.

Production Notes:

The shooting of this episode was a comedy of errors. I forgot the ND filter, i had problems with the mic all day, and basically, the majority of what we shot was unusable. I wanted the second piece to be one shot, but i ended up having to take the best parts from three different takes to make it all work. Anyway, i figured Ben’s performance was strong enough to carry it in spite of the technical shortcomings.

Street Noise: Real T@lk

After a pretty electric Open Mic Monday at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a crowd gathered outside where people who didn’t get a chance to perform were starting their own open mic. Real T@lk (AKA Brandon Williams) is an emcee/poet from Chicago. He was starting cyphers outside all afternoon, banging beats with bare hands on metal trash cans, spitting bars at passing cars and the crowd on the street. But at the end of the night, he still had more to say.

You can find more at

Professor Righteous

Professor Righteous is here to teach you about poetry, New York, racial injustice, the music industry and New Jack Swing. A lot of his work is meta- dealing with how issues interact with the poetry medium, and the artist’s role in what’s happening. Some of his work is just about himself: “My favorite veggie is broccoli,” he says in the poem featured in the video, before listing more facts about himself.

It was the Professor who picked this location. When i first asked him, he said he’d like to find a housing project so we walked a bit and found a patio area outside the entrance of the comity center at Avenue D, and began shooting. His voice and his words were caught up in the tall brick half-hexagon we found ourselves in, bouncing off metal and coming from the windows. Professor Righteous doesn’t need a stage. As he says “I don’t need back up singers, i don’t need to do a 360 degree spin, i don’t need to walk on the moon, i don’t need a pretty young thing.” He doesn’t need all that. He’s just a poet.

You can find his new book “Can’t Be Soul(ed) Out” at


T.V. on the Internet

T.V. from FL is chill. Check her delivery. A lot of spoken word artists think that the louder you shout, the more meaningful your words are, which is what makes a poet like T.V. so important. She takes on her heritage, her family, interracial relations often with a wistful detachment that makes a lot of sense to me. Here she covers everything in a poem we shot in the 6BC garden to E. 6th street.

T.V. has no online presence, but asks that you support her at and catch her at an open mic in LES sometime.


Street Noise 2 – Vincent Ivos

Vincent Ivos is the kind of guy you could make a movie about. In fact, somebody already did. Google his name and you get results from soundcloud to the New York Times. We met up a Washington Square Park where he had already tore his hand open skating with some kids he just met. We walked over to some NYU buildings and he did a poem he just finished writing (NEW SHIT). For more Vincent, click here


Street Noise 1 – Elsa Hiraldo

I met Elsa at the Nuyorican Open Mic Monday. She wanted to do this poem to a song, so we went to my car and hooked her phone up to the stereo, so most of the music you hear is actually coming from the car. We thought it was a cool pose in there anyway (even if the lighting wasn’t ideal). Listen to the way she speaks.