SPRINGFIELD - It was just a few months ago that Decatur native A.D. Carson published his book, accompanied by compact disc which he also recorded.
Neither is terribly unusual, having an author's voice record some of what's in his book, but in Carson's case, he uses the combination of poetry, prose and rap lyrics. Rap, in fact, played/plays a large part in his work.
Q: What about A.D. Carson first?
It's "A.D." with the periods, he said, because as it was pointed out to him, "If you don't use the dots, it's ‘AD the Great.' That doesn't come out."
Carson was born in Decatur, graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 1997, though he said it wasn't unusual for him to attend a different school every year, sometimes two. He has a bachelor's degree from Millikin University and a master's from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Though initially his only goal was to become a professional rapper, and he did record some CDs, he was also a bit of a poet along the way. He said he preferred "the traditional rapper, Ice T, Ice Cube. I was a rapper before I became a teacher."
He's now an educator at Springfield High School who puts together his talents to inspire students. Carson has found "the most effective way I can tap into those students that may not be so interested in ‘The Great Gatsby' is to connect them with hip hop."
"It's championing the message. If it works, why not use it?"
Some would say, he continued, "Why is this teacher using this song? And I'm saying, ‘Why not?' "
Q: Someone, another poet, inspired/inspires you along the way.
"I was definitely influenced by Gwendolyn Brooks," Carson said. "We corresponded with letters back and forth during high school. She was making me understand that regardless of whether I'm 15 or 16 years old, it's a voice to be heard."
Brooks encouraged him, he said, when she told him. "You're a writer, and you can't shake it."
It was a normal school day, he thought, when he met Brooks while a student at Eisenhower High School. He'd already been reading her work, from the fourth grade on, circling his favorites.
"She'd only existed as black words on white paper."
When he learned she'd be at his school, he wrote her a poem, keeping it folded with him. "After (her) reading, I sat there with my poem folded up. She kind of smiled at me."
And he was able to pass the poem along, which she termed "beautiful," and their correspondence began.
Q: And the novel?
"I came to the conclusion after a lot of deliberation that it would be a logical conclusion to write a hip hop novel."
It also contains traditional prose and poetry. Sending out hundreds of query letters for publication brought "a lot of positive, a lot of negative" reactions, he remembered. Many were unsure where the book would fit in the book market, he added.
Carson said it was Mayhaven Publishing Inc. which took on his book. "For a lot of the reasons the others were unsure, she (Doris Wenzel, publisher) was sure. She sees that there's something there.
"The very first piece that appears in the novel I wrote in 2002. From that point, there are a lot of different pieces," he explained, adding most of the book was shaped between 2007 and 2009.
"It's framed as a fictional character reading a nonfiction book. There is nothing like this book that has been published before, so nobody knows exactly how to sell it."
About the book
TITLE: "COLD" by A.D. Carson
TYPE: softcover, 222 pages
ISBN-13: Book: 978 061550326-4; CD: 978 193227872-9
PUBLISHER: Mayhaven Publishing Inc., Mahomet
AUTHOR'S WEB SITE: aydeethegreat.com
LIST PRICE: From Mayhaven: book and CD, $25; book and CD plus two other CD's, Cold War Vol. I & II, $35; book: $17.95; from amazon.com: CD, $10.22
From 9 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Aug. 18, A.D. Carson is hosting his monthly "Speak Easy: A Spoken Word Set" a spoken poetry set at Bar None, 427 E. Monroe, Springfield
He will also participate in the Celebrate Local Authors book signing event at Barnes & Noble, 3111 S. Veterans Parkway, Springfield, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 27.