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This Month's Reading Superstar!


Etan Thomas

Background:  Etan Thomas is a 6-foot-10-inches, 260-pound center for the Washington Wizards.  He was born in Harlem, N.Y. on April Fool’s Day and grew up in Tulsa, Okla.  Etan played NCAA basketball at Syracuse University and was drafted into the NBA six years ago.

But Etan is More Than an Athlete, the title of his first book of poetry, published in 2005He is also an avid poet who writes about everything from politics to Sesame Street

Etan is married and enjoys reading West Indian stories to his 20-month-old son, Malcolm.

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Interview

RIF: Besides playing in the NBA, what would be your dream job?

Etan Thomas: I’ve always had a passion for young people. Maybe because my mom’s a teacher and every year, since high school, she has asked me to talk to her class about peer pressure and other topics. When I retire from the NBA, I would love to teach political science or history at a high school or an Historically Black College or University (HBCU). 

RIF: How did your teammates first react when they found out you were a poet?

ET: At first they were like, "Man, what’s up with that?"  But once they came to an event where I recited my poetry, they were like, "Yeah, that’s cool because you’re talking about important issues."

RIF: Who was your favorite poet as a child?

ET: I really liked Shakespeare; I liked his use of language.  He wouldn’t just say, "She walked down the street."  He was more creative with words.

RIF: When did you start writing poetry?

ET: I wrote my first poem in high school.  It was about dealing with stereotypes as a young African-American male.

RIF: What do you like most about poetry?

ET: I like that poetry is so diverse.  It can be narrative, like telling a story, creative, like putting yourself in another’s shoes, or a therapeutic way to just get stuff off your chest.

RIF: What do you like most about reciting your poetry in public?

ET: I’m really into politics, so a lot of my poems are political.  I like reciting my poetry because afterward, people will come up to me and challenge me.  It opens up this great political dialogue between me and people in the audience.

RIF: What is your favorite poem that you’ve written?

ET: It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I guess it would be My Heritage, which I wrote with my younger brother.  It’s about our family’s Caribbean heritage—our grandparents are from the West Indies.

* Read an excerpt from My Heritage. *

RIF: What advice would you give to a young poet?

ET: Don’t let anyone put you in a box labeled athlete or musician or scientist or whatever.  Like me, you can be an athlete AND a poet.  If poetry is your passion, just follow your heart and don’t let anyone or anything stop you.


 
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