Hanging out with Montsho was an experience in itself. Unbeknownst to him, he gives me a refreshing perspective on life and the world of spoken word poetry. With a magnifying demeanor, he carries a strong, resilient presence. Montsho attracts a certain amount of positive energy wherever he goes. Standing next to me, he is three times my size and one of the kindest souls that you will meet in this lifetime.
Upon my arrival, I wasn’t surprised to catch Montsho peacefully sipping hot tea and meditating in his backyard. He is a man of few words but can impact others with whatever he needs to say when the moment is right. Montsho is a great inspiration and has a unique ability to bring people together. He achieves this with creativity and eloquence through poetry. We live in a bustling and complicated world, we should take inspiration from this man. He simply sees life as a conscious experience and less complicated than most think it should be.
Tell me about your background.
Born and raised in Austin, I’ve been growing up with this city and it has changed since. Even 6 years ago, it seems like a different place and I don’t know. I’ve been living, making stuff, and talking to people.
How do you feel Austin has changed?
It is heavily gentrified in the areas where I grew up, especially in East Austin, so it’s weird to see the change. I say that I’ve been making stuff but I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist. I studied visual art for a time until high school. In college, I switched to writing and that became my primary focus; just being a writer, performance poet, and artist.
A lot of it came from my parents. My mother was a writer and she taught me how to write and she helped start KAZI 88.7 FM, the radio station, so she always had that radio presence voice. Being around her and seeing her doing what she do at the radio stations/spots and reading her writing guided me in that direction. My dad is also a musician so I’ve been around the performance atmosphere for quite a while. Seeing what that is and what it can be peaked my interest.
Where can we find some of your work?
When I started writing, I was doing more journalism than anything. I was published in a local newspaper called The Villager which is owned and operated by Tommy Wyatt.
I publish my work through RawPaw as well as edit some of our publication. I’ve definitely been in the community since the beginning. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a founder of RawPaw but I have been involved since the beginning, by promoting the art in the community and spreading the RawPaw gospel. There are a lot of amazing people out there whose work isn’t spotlighted as often. And that was kind of the main objective, starting just a group of friends spreading each other’s work.
What is your role with RawPaw?
I am a talent scout and member of the editorial staff. I edit RawPaw, the main literary & art magazine. There are usually 3 or 4 of us working on the actual flagship ‘zine when it’s time. We all have a lot to say on the art that we are contributing. A lot of what I do is talking to people about RawPaw. It is important because it spreads knowledge and what we are doing is really powerful. I do some merchandise distribution as well. I travel to the west and east coast. I fly often to NYC and to the bay area of California. When I am there, I take RawPaw issues and put them in shops and local areas. I do the same thing in Austin.
What were some challenges that independent publications face?
Money. Money is probably the biggest challenge. It’s a for-profit organization. It’s not a non-profit so we aren’t getting grants or anything. We don’t have angel investors or anything like that. It’s what we worked hard on to make and that is essentially how we’ve done events to promote events to promote literary and art magazines which promote themselves by being sold and in that way, we can pay what we owe for the ‘zine and continue to throw more shows. We try to keep every show on the track to be bigger and better the way we decorate and promote the atmosphere.
Who are your favorite people to work with?
I love sharing the stage with Harrison Anderson. He has a very nice stage charisma and he is an excellent poet/singer-songwriter.
Nathan Wilkins and I go back and forth with sharing each other’s work. He is one of my few people that I feel completely comfortable with sharing work that is unfinished. Any poetry that I’ve been writing has been found with him as well as musically. Very inspirational to me.
My brother, Kasai, whom I work with musically and share my writings with me for 14 years now and more recently, Luciano Cavazos, who I am excited to work with musically and literarily.
What keeps you motivated?
To be a fully developed and artistic human being as I possibly can.
What type of writing do you enjoy?
The type of writing that I mainly do is poetic. I do some short prose. I write prayers, not of any particular church or doctrines.
Creativity… what does it mean to you?
It means tuning in. It’s a wavelength that you can get on. It sort of opens doors and makes a lot of things flow. It’s easy and really just about finding a state of mind that produces what you are trying to say. Everybody is trying to say something whether they know it or not. Some people choose to tune into whatever it is and some people don’t. I think that is what means to be creative.
A day in your life, what is it like?
Usually, I am working on any given day and evening. I have my whole afternoon for free time. Sometimes, I will cook for friends, practice yoga, write or work on music. It depends on what day it is and how I am feeling.
Explain your interest in yoga.
I’ve been doing yoga since I was 8 years old. I took a brief stint with martial arts, did that for 6 years, and came back to yoga. For the past 5 years, I’ve been practicing yoga daily. That’s another art that I really appreciate and in 5 years, I hope to teach yoga. It’s a study of awareness, attention, and being present. I love that.
Name a book after yourself
What advice would you give to beginners?
Practice until it makes you so so happy. Do what you love until you love it more.
Where can we find you?
Plog has just been released on the RawPaw website which is our online blog and content collection. You can find it on the RawPaw website.
Follow me on Instagram: @montsho
You can donate to Montsho’s Life after Leukemia fund here.
Written, photographed, and filmed by Mimi Nguyen