Se7en lays groundwork for release of “Public Commentary” CD
By Diane Tezeno
He has been described as a prolific poet and a soulful Shakespeare by various sources and has garnered a reputation as Houston’s Premier Spoken Word Artist by an increasingly growing following of admirers.
Great accolades for a Sunnyside Houston native who never planned to make a mark in the poetic arena.
“I never started out to be a poet. I had poems that I had been writing for quite some time, but it was not until I got on the mic and a couple of guys said to ‘keep doing it,’ that I began to pursue it professionally,’ ” says Se7en.
Varion Howard, known better as Se7en The Poet, has reawakened the art of the spoken word and is leaving his unique imprint on the art form as he raises the community’s social consciousness with his passionate lyrics.
“My friends charge me with being confrontational and I may be to some degree, but if you push me to the point that I’m going to say something. I’m not a talker, I’m a doer. So if I say something, I’m going to do something about it … this is my tool, this is my weapon and I let people know what is going on, what they may be overlooking,” says Se7en.
That drive and passion to examine issues and social ills has given birth to his soon-to-be-released CD, “Public Commentary.”
The CD will showcase the gifted artist’s insightful lyrics as he shines the spotlight on a range of issues ranging from HIV to homelessness to parental responsibility.
“I’m not trying to force my beliefs or views on anybody, I just merely ask my community, my peers, humanity, hey consider this. Did you think about this?” says the Houston poet.
One of his popular pieces, “Toy Story,” featured on the CD, shares the artist’s insights and perspectives on the closing of a local toy store.
“I thought to myself that they are closing down so they must not be selling any toys. Then what are the kids playing with?” says Howard.
In the piece, he examines the increasing numbers of young people fixated on video games and absorbed in the virtual world.
“When was the last time you saw a playground full of kids? Kids don’t go outside anymore, they are not active. Our children are so wrapped up in technology, it is even impacting their mental health,” says Se7en.
“These kids will sleep in a parking lot waiting on a new video game to come out, but will not put that kind of diligence as far as education is concerned. So “Toy Story” focuses on what our kids are doing and what we are allowing them to do,” says Se7en.
Another piece spotlights the continuing battle against HIV in the community.
“I like to do my homework when I do my poems, so I went to an AIDS clinic and sat and observed the people and talked to the counselors,” says Howard.
Aware of the spread of the disease in the African American community, his visit broadened his insights on the impact of the disease, shares the artist.
“I was totally caught by surprise; it’s not just a lot of poor people, it not just a bunch of sickly-looking people, and not just Black Americans are being hit. But sitting in the clinic, I got to see that all Americans are being hit, all socio-economic classes are being hit,” says Howard.
But the most shocking aspect of his visit was not the oldest person, but the youngest person that was HIV-positive.
“That baby was 6 years old,” says Howard.
According to the artist, although the piece may ruffle some feathers as he shines the light on various aspects of the disease, his goal is to raise issues he believes society should consider.
He also gives voice to the growing issue of homelessness on his CD.
“I talk about charity and helping the homeless population and the truth about how we treat and view them, and how close many of us are to becoming one of those people,” says Se7en.
As he treads on everything from the taboo to the trends of the day, Se7en said his goal is to “not sound like the news and bring people the blues, but all I’m saying is consider this.”
Although he did not set out to pursue his current career path, the Houston artist believes the seeds for his present day success were planted in his early childhood.
“It dawned on me the other day that I was “being prepared for this” ever since I was a young child.
His mother, Prenise Howard, performed as a background singer for Teddy Pendergrass during her career under the stage name “Peaches,” shares Howard.
“Watching my mom get dressed to go perform, understanding stage presence, how to be a host, greeting people at venues and being accessible, I learned all of that watching my mom. She has had the greatest impact on my career,” says Howard.
Howard believes he also may possess characteristics of a father (now deceased) who was absent from his life.
“Everyone says I have my father’s confidence,” says the Houston artist.
His mother recently had a chance to attend one of her son’s performances.
” I came on stage and she was sitting there crying, saying I’m just so proud of my baby and all that,” says Se7en.
As one of the top-earning spoken word artists in Texas, his mother has much to be proud of.
In the years since making his professional debut, her son’s raw and earthy talent for captivating audiences with words and his profound insights, has opened the door for him to emcee for artists such as John Legend, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. Locally he has performed at a number of community events , including the Houston House of Blues Local Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama, the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators “Education is a Civil Right” Conference and the Houston Health & Human Services ‘Hip Hop for HIV Concert.’
A high school counselor by day, Howard maintains a busy schedule with weekly performances as the proprietor and main headliner of The Poetry Lounge in Houston, performed on Radio One’s “One Love Gospel Cruise” and has appeared on several local talk shows, including the Cindy Davis Show aired on the Public Access Channel, Yolanda Green’s Outlook Houston on WB39 and Channel 11’s Great Day Houston.
“I am just trying to stay busy,” says Se7en.
In his tireless effort to raise the platform for the spoken word, the multi-faceted artist invites the public to partake in the spoken word experience at the Poetry Lounge in Rice Village where he graces the stage each Sunday at 6 p.m., along with a variety of other artists.
Leaving a Legacy
Of all of the fanfare and accolades, Se7en is most fulfilled at the end of the day by the impact his artistry is having on the lives of young people.
“Apparently, it seems that I have been making quite an impact on children,” says Howard.
The artist has received a lot of phone calls from parents requesting his permission for their child to recite his pieces.
“I’m seeing kids reciting my pieces on YouTube and have been invited to all levels of academia from elementary to the collegiate level to lecture kids. And the trend is – after I’ve said my piece I’m done – but the kids are picking up pens and penning their own pieces. They are being inspired and trying to give a voice for themselves, which they have not done before,” says Howard.
It is a compliment to his artistry that he is still processing.
“I really don’t know how to feel about, I feel like I’m just doing my job and I’m ok with that.”
With that said, the talented poet adds that he has few fears or concerns, other than “being outside of the will of God.”
“I’m grateful for my assignment, I totally embrace it and believe with every fiber of my being, to the core of my being, that I am in God’s purpose. I know that at the drop of a hat my directive could change. I ‘m just a solider out here and I could be on another mission,” says Howard.
As he continues on his present mission, he realizes there are still a lot of walls to knock down and stigmas to overcome in helping the community to embrace the spoken word as a legitimate art form, rather than a step child, says Howard.
“Poets have a stigma about always being militant or being perceived as loose cannons, because people don’t really know what they are going to say,” says Howard.
Most people are not familiar with the spoken word outside of poets such as Shakespeare, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelo, says Howard.
“But even some of those poems don’t really talk to where people are today or deal with what is going on in society now. And that is where we modern day poets and spoken word artists give a voice to those people,” says Howard.
In the coming years, he would like to see a paradigm shift in the entertainment industry that brings A-list poets to the forefront where they are starring in movies and selling a million pieces of a poem or experiencing a million downloads of their work.
Look for the release of Se7en’s latest CD, “Public Commentary” in the coming months. The CD will be available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby.com and www.se7enthepoet.com.
SEE HIM AT:
Poetry Lounge Sundays
Sundays, 6 p.m.
Free admission for educators with school/university ID.