Big Poppa E
Big Poppa E was a performer of slam poetry. His live performances combined poetry, stand-up comedy, and dramatic monologue in high-energy rants about relationships, pop culture, and hot button issues of the day. He appeared on: three seasons of HBO's Def Poetry series; BET's comedy-variety show The Way We Do It; and CBS's news program 60 Minutes. He was also a National Poetry Slam Champion (San Francisco Team '99). Big Poppa E developed a solid reputation as a strong poetry slam host and organizer for events at the National Poetry Slam (NPS), Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS), and other similar events at universities across the United States.
He was best known for the performance poem The Wussy Boy Manifesto, a humorous rant championing sensitive men that elevates such cultural icons as Duckie from Pretty in Pink and Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything... to role models. Debuting in 1999, The Wussy Boy Manifesto garnered widespread attention, prompting Ms. Magazine to name Big Poppa E "an icon for effeminate males" and the Los Angeles Times to proclaim him the "leader of a new men's movement."
He often worked with the human rights organization Amnesty International and the campus organization Men Against Violence Against Women, and hosted numerous politically themed poetry slam events and workshops at regional and national Amnesty International conferences across the U.S. He was also featured at events championing women's issues and sexual assault awareness, such as The University of Nevada, The University of Southern California, and Denver University. He performed with: folk singer/activist Michelle Shocked; writer Michelle Tea; poet Sini Anderson; poet/writer Beth Lisick; acclaimed poet and musician Saul Williams; performance poet Buddy Wakefield; Cannes Film Festival winner Trine Dyrholm in the Danish film P.O.V.; lesbian-feminist spoken word and performance art collective Sister Spit; Queer San Francisco-based performance poet Daphne Gottlieb; and Inga Muscio, author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.
Big Poppa E curtailed his touring schedule in 2010 to focus on writing a memoir about his experiences touring the country with poetry, but then he ceased all contact with friends and family in December of 2010. Several missing persons reports have been filed in a number of cities (including Austin, Texas, and Wichita, Kansas), but his current whereabouts or condition are unknown. His last known address was in Portland, OR.
Big Poppa E was born in Bakersfield, CA. He took classes at California State University, Bakersfield, and quickly became a part of the burgeoning youth movement of the early '90s that had erupted. BPE became Arts & Entertainment editor of the student newspaper, The Runner, and frequently wrote about the local band scene. Eventually, he enlisted the help of several friends to begin a music fanzine called Fencepost and organize rock shows featuring local Bakersfield bands (such as Spike 1000, Mento Buru, Cradle of Thorns, and Sexart).
After transferring to Chico State University in Northern California in 1994 to concentrate on a degree in Journalism, he become a staff writer on the student-run newspaper The Orion. BPE became involved in the poetry slam scene in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1997. He qualified for the San Francisco Poetry Slam Team in 1999 and adopted the stage name Big Poppa E after an audience member shouted it during the performance of a hip-hop inspired poem called Jesus Moshpit.
Just one semester shy of graduation, Big Poppa E was offered a position as the Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal. He worked in that capacity for the summer of 1999, but then his San Francisco Poetry Slam Team tied for first place at the National Poetry Slam in Chicago, besting 48 teams. Upon returning to his job, he quit, dropped out of school, and began touring full-time as a slam poet, launching a national tour that visited 27 states in 4 months.
Although he occasionally writes freelance articles for newspapers and magazines (such as Bust Magazine and Poets & Writers) and frequently takes day jobs, Big Poppa E primarily makes his living by writing and performing his poetry across the United States.
Big Poppa E's viral video Why I Got Fired From Apple Computer received well over a million hits on YouTube, Google Video, and MySpace. The clip detailed the uproar over the poem Oh! Canadian FedEx Lady! after it was performed at an Apple Computer employee talent show in 2005, two days after which Big Poppa was fired for undisclosed reasons.
The poem was a comedic rant about a male worker in the Apple Computer call center who flirts over the phone with a female Canadian FedEx employee while keeping "rude, mean American customers" on hold.
The story of his firing was picked up in various news sources across the Internet and was used as an example of increased scrutiny of employee blogging and vlogging by companies that has led to firings.
- Jones, Monika (23 May 2002). "Big Poppa E's slam poetry rocks the HUB". The Daily (University of Washington).
- Smith, Patricia (August–September 2001). "Slammed". Ms. Magazine. p. 94.
- Hanania, Joseph (27 August 2000). "Poet's Mantra: I Am Wussy Boy, Hear Me Roar!". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). p. E1.
- McOwen, Mary Anna (7 April 2008). "Sexual Assault Awareness Week to examine media's portrayal of sex". DU Today (University of Denver).
- Kayser, Annie (22 November 2002). "Broken Word is Bond". Western Courier (Western Illinois University).
- Singer, Michael (24 February 2007). "Ex-Apple Employee's Firing Makes For Great YouTube Video". Information Week's Digital Life Weblog.
- Cornell, Christopher (29 March 2006). "Internet Complicates HR Decisions". Human Resource Executive Online.
- Slam-Dunked: Poets Duke It Out - Washington Post
- Part Art, Part Hip-Hop And Part Circus; Slammers Shake Up an Interest in Poetry - New York Times
- I Am Wussy Boy, Hear Me Roar! - Los Angeles Times
- Putting Steel In Velvet Gloves - Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
- Redefining Masculinity - Ottawa Citizen, Canada
- Big Poppa E - Chico News & Review
- The Poetry of a New Generation - National Public Radio, Savvy Traveler
- FronteraFest Short Fringe: Week 3 Review - Austin Chronicle
- Poetry tour is slam-dunk - Providence Journal