I Am the Culture

  • By Dominic McDonald
  • July 24, 2023

Finding my place in the DC poetry community.

I Am the Culture

If you look at the mission statement of the DMV Renaissance Awards, you’ll find words that echo what it means to be a poet during this time: “WE ARE THE CULTURE.”

I truly feel the experience in the Washington, DC, area has been about culture and cultural diversity. The nation’s capital manages to hold space not just for itself but for representation from across the country and the globe. Being from Los Angeles and a DMV resident for four years now, I can proudly say that my voice has been welcomed and my art received with open arms.

Through a fraternity “brother in arts,” I was able to get connected with a DC-based small publisher, Day Eight, and compete in their contest for a $1,000 book deal. This led to me winning the DC Poet Project 2022; for a year now, I’ve been receiving free editing and mentorship and have participated in interviews and readings across the region. 

I’ve found throughout my experience with Day Eight that being able to tell your story and make an emotional human connection is what drives readers to your work. Providing a nice brain break from whatever people have going on, providing a chance for stillness and relaxation, or offering a different perspective to someone who otherwise would not be able to see something that way is a big part of why I write poetry. The critiques are as affirming as the work is genuine.

Like many other aspiring authors, I’ve been leery of being a Black voice in a space where I am a minority. But when I share my work, I try to remember: I AM the culture. 

[Editor’s note: This piece is in support of the Inner Loop’s “Author’s Corner,” a monthly campaign that spotlights a DC-area writer and their recently published work from a small to medium-sized publisher. The Inner Loop connects talented local authors to lit lovers in the community through live readings, author interviews, featured book sales at Potter's House, and through Eat.Drink.Read., a collaboration with restaurant partners Pie Shop, Shaw’s Tavern, and Reveler’s Hour to promote the author through special events and menu and takeout inserts.]

Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, also known as Nerd the Poet, is a young Black entrepreneur and spoken-word artist from Los Angeles now living in the DC area. He has put his views on growing up in the inner city between two households, hip-hop music, being a social outcast, college experiences, and more on paper and created everything from screenplays to magazine articles. In January 2022, he founded Nerd the Poet Productions, a poetic event and consulting company that curates art-share opportunities and recreational entertainment through the spoken word. His passion comes from serving the community, especially through the arts. He is the 2022 winner of Day Eight’s “DC Poet Project.”

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