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Darlin Nikki

Off The Cuff with spoken word artist Nicole Janzen

Jan. 29, 2014
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Spoken word poetry artist Nicole Janzen, aka “Darlin Nikki,” combats social injustice through poetry performances, books, albums, community workshops and more. She writes about her present circumstance, whatever that may be, with a fresh, “in-your-face” tone, acknowledging the past while looking to a brighter future. Her newest album, Healing Broken, debuted last fall after three years of toiling with friend and musical producer Jaems Murphy, founder of Eve’sDrop Records.


What is a spoken word poetry artist?

Spoken word is a very captivating genre when done right. It’s a type of healing process that entertains, enlightens and builds community. Spoken word uses the art of dramatic performance. While “page poets” may look at spoken word as not being very literary, the writing and performance are both art forms. I believe this genre is a cornerstone in multicultural education and can lead to better understanding and a better world.


Where does your inspiration come from?

I’m inspired by every ounce of life that I drink in: classical poets like Langston Hughes, Milwaukee poet Dasha Kelly, rap artists like Drake, musical lyrics by Brett Dennen, the voice of Darius Rucker, a cup of coffee, a pair of good-fitting jeans…but mostly, the struggles I have survived and seen growing up in blue-collar dysfunction and blue-collar pride. Also, the stories of my ancestors and the history of people moving and feuding yet still finding love and poetry.


Why did you create Healing Broken?

We are often raised in a way that isn’t conducive to healing. The album speaks to finding your own joy and not passively letting the world destroy your possibilities. I made it hoping to bridge gaps of racism and sexism, hoping to break stereotypes and repair hurt—or at least give people something they can feel and vibe to. The poetry is intense. The music generates a great atmosphere. I create because it frees my spirit and makes me feel powerful and worthy, like I’m giving the world back something beautiful for all it gave to me.


What would you like Milwaukeeans to know about you?

My poetry is the truth, as I know it. Everyone has a story to tell and if you truly listen you may find pieces of yourself and connect on a deep, human level. I struggle every day to accept the alienation of our culture. Community is a saving grace, but in our competitive world it seems to be torn from us. I encourage everyone to find a way to communicate using some form of art. It heals.


What can we expect from you in the near future?

Jaems Murphy is producing music for a live show of the album with a seven-piece band for a performance in May. We’re shooting two videos for Healing Broken. I’m working on a different type of album with more rap and beats—a mix tape of sorts. I’m writing a manual on teaching with soul and I’ll be hosting a bimonthly show, “Beat Music Series,” at the Art Bar [722 E. Burleigh St.].


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