You know how you meet someone new and it feels like you met them before, like in another life or something? Well, Bassey Ikpi, who I “met” on Facebook a coupla years ago, is one of those people. Either that or we’re just the same person—as Bassey says, no one has ever seen the two of us in a room together. Both of us are Michael Jackson fanatics (please read her devastatingly personal and brilliantly written eulogy for MJ here at her blog, Bassey’s World and the year-after follow-up here.). And rarely ever does one of us tweet or Facebook some tidbit about a line of dialogue from an old TV show or a lyric from a song without the other immediately shouting out the other one and claiming said reference as an all-time favorite. It really is spooky. But in a good way. Bassey Ikpi is one of those people who gave me faith in the social networking thing. We chat online—because life somehow hasn’t allowed us to “meet” in person yet—and it always feels like old-home week: her jokes and one-liners make me actually LOL (and always when I’m drinking coffee or soda); her poignant and revealing stories about her struggles with mental illness have touched me deeply. With words, she has the rhythm of a musician and the timing of a comedian, and it all blends together into dazzling yet personable and heartfelt performances of honesty and truth.
Watch this video, a tribute Bassey wrote to singer Phyllis Hyman, entitled “One Good Reason To Stay,” to see what I’m talking about.
Or this one from the 2nd season of Def Poetry, where I, and many, first discovered her work:
The Nigerian-born poet/author eventually became a featured cast member of the National Touring Company of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show, Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam. She’s been published or profiled in such magazines as Nylon, Marie Claire, Glamour and Bust, and has recorded an original poem for the Kaiser Foundation’s HIV/AIDS campaign, “Knowing Is Beautiful.” She spent this summer on a 5-city tour, taking her Basseyworld Live show on the road and, from what I can tell by the Twitter buzz about it, turning the kids out with her combination of smarts, humor, poetry, and politically incorrect (and very direct) interactive panel discussions touching on everything from politics to pop culture. Her book, a collection of poetry and prose with the wonderful title Blame My Teflon Heart: Poetry, Prose and Post-Its For Boys Who Didn’t Write Back, will be released soon.
You know how you say about someone cool, “That person should have a TV show”? Well, those words were meant for Bassey Ikpi. Seriously. Or, funnily. Or both.
It turns out, weird and coincidental as things get when we’re both Tweeting, that Bassey and I actually had been in the same space at the same time—though neither one of us can confirm whether anyone saw us or not. (Is that like if a tree falls in the forest and no one—oh, never mind.) Turns out we’re both very much members of the 21st century: Not only did we have that experience known to many 90s/New Century creatives—working at a splashy new dotcom that eventually went under—we worked at the same splashy new dotcom that eventually went under, ten years ago. And only realized it a coupla days ago. But that’s Life With Bassey (well, there’s the title of her TV show!): unexpected, always surprising, full of revelation, connected. I’m honored and excited that she’s this week’s SPB Q. You will be, too.
Name: Nyono-MmaBassey (Bassey) Ikpi
Hometown: Ugep, Cross River State, Nigeria and Stillwater, OK
Zodiac sign: Mighty, Mighty Leo
Favorite book: Favorites are so difficult for me… Anything by J. California Cooper, The Alchemist, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Assata, Anne of Green Gables, Sula…
Favorite poem: “angels get no maps” by Suheir Hammad, “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes, “smoke, lilies & jade” by Richard Bruce Nugent, “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes, anything by Rumi
Favorite poet: Favorites are so difficult for me, depends on what time of the day and what day of the month. I love Suheir Hammad always and forever. Pablo Neruda injects more beauty into a few syllables than any of us are blessed enough to feel in a lifetime.
Favorite movie: Something’s Killing Tate, Anne of Green Gables, The Parent Trap (Original Recipe), The Sound of Music, Goodfellas, Brother to Brother… I have the worst taste in both music and movies.
Favorite song: Michael Jackson everything he’s done (except “Stranger In Moscow”) and “Everybody Here Wants You/Lover You Should’ve Come Over” by Jeff Buckley
Fictional character or poem you wish you had created: Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. She was the first written character that spoke to me in a language that I felt in the core of me. She gave me permission to be eccentric and to live my life on the boundaries past what any one else could understand. She was true to herself and her emotions and she was unapologetically odd. As an odd kid (and adult) I needed that validation even if it was just in books.
Career High: Performing at the NAACP Image Awards doing an original poetic tribute to Venus and Serena Williams. Then meeting the sisters and Angela Basset afterwards.
Life High: Getting my mental health under control and finally living life the way it was meant to be without anxiety, fear or self doubt. I’m the happiest and most centered I’ve ever been in my entire life. Makes my whole life “high”.
You’re on a desert island and can only have 5 CDs/books/ or DVDs shipped in to you. What are they?
UGH! You’re killing me! Five? I’d pick things that bring me joy and comfort.
- Jeff Buckley, Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
- Wicked Original Broadway Soundtrack
- Michael Jackson- History 1 & 2
- The Sound Of Music: Anniversary edition
- Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist
Your favorite quote: “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” ~ Toni Morrison (favorite quote today.)
Guilty pleasure: How much time you got? Pop music, reality TV, celebrity gossip…