Author, speaker, and poet James Coats was born in Los Angeles and raised in Southern California. He has an intense feeling for all things creative. He strives to capture authentic self-expression through his work. James’ creative bend tends toward photography, painting, and writing.
Coats, a nationally featured poet, won the 2021 San Gabriel Poetry Slam. Coats has two collections of poetry, self-published, available on Amazon. “If I had Lived” was published in 2018 and “All The Ways You Are Wonderful” in 2020.
Early Writing Experiences
James started writing at the age of seven. During middle school, his poetry started taking shape. There he began writing love poems to the girls he had a crush on. These were the foundation of his first poetry collection. His senior high school creative writing teacher nurtured his talent. During that time, the desire to publish a book took shape.
He obtained his BFA at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He received his MBA from California State University, San Bernardino. During his college years, his writing was focused on either college papers or work. A pleasant diversion from the grind was his newborn son.
He stayed in touch with poetry by reading the junior college poetry journal. He also attended a few readings. After Coats graduated in 2016, he got in touch with poets in the Inland Empire. He began writing again and rediscovered his first love, poetry.
Sims Library Of Poetry – South Los Angeles
The Sims Library of Poetry is well known as the first black-owned poetry library in California. They offer space to: read, write, study, perform, and appreciate poetry.
The library’s founder, Hiram Sims, started by lending books to his students out of his suitcase. He required them to read one book of poetry a week. As it grew, the library moved to his garage. Poetry readings and open-mics were held in his backyard. The poetry library community grew from there.
The library moved to Inglewood in 2020. They now have 5,000 books of poetry and are hosting pandemic-friendly events. Donations of poetry books are greatly appreciated by the library community.
Community Literature Initiative
James Coats joined the Community Literature Initiative’s (CLI) Poetry Publishing Class. There he learned to write and finalize manuscripts for publication. Part of his training included poetry writing structure and the use of poetic forms.
“Read every day, write every day,” CLI’s motto. James took this to heart and began reading and writing two hours daily. He was soon reading and performing via Zoom. Coats enjoyed workshops not only in California but across the nation virtually.
During this time, James gained a community of poetic friends. Some friends were from around the world: London to Nigeria to New Zealand. His mini artistic renaissance in what will eventually become three books. You can follow his journey on Instagram @MrLovingWords.
Midnight & Mad Dreams Book
After a few years’ break from writing, he saw things in this country become tense. He felt compelled to use his ability and voice to address matters that were important to him. Coats feels a responsibility to observe and document through poetry.
Coats says his goal as a writer is to share the stories that are not often being told. He wants to share those stories so people can get a glimpse of what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. James desires to fight racism and oppression through the use of language and storytelling. He hopes his book will serve as a bridge to bring people together and bring about more equality.
He views ‘Midnight & Mad Dreams’ as an educational tool. It shows how we intersect between systems of oppression. The book highlights the need for love and understanding. He hopes it helps people recognize how they unknowingly perpetuate negative systems. Then they will be able to dismantle the negative systems in their life.
James Coats’ Other Talents
The foundation of his writing is always based in narrative. What story is being told? Who does he want to communicate to or connect with? The medium of delivering that story can vary from essays to short stories to novels. He also shares his stories through plays or screenwriting.
James has more stories than time to write. He prefers poetry; he can share the beauty of the story through language with far fewer words. Eventually, he pictures being able to share more creative expression through various artistic mediums like a graphic novel or video and film.
Coats’ BFA is in design. He is creative and has been making art since very young. He took four years of art in high school. James wanted to write and illustrate comic books as a child, his fallback plan if career as an NBA basketball player didn’t work out.
In college, they were required to create all of their own original content for projects. Therefore, James learned photography. Coats enjoys capturing life in the moment and the story that is told through photography.
Be The Change Workshop
James felt racial injustice had reached a tipping point in 2020. He questioned how he could contribute to equity as an artist. James realized his book, as a tool to help combat inequality, could only do so much.
The idea of a place to discuss the topics in the book came about. A place to have creative dialogue and allow people to express their feelings.
James hosts the “Be The Change: Social Justice Writing” Workshop.
The workshop is on Zoom on the first Wednesday of every month at 6 pm. To join, email him at LiftOurVoicesEducation@gmail.com the cost is “Name Your Own Price.”
People share high-quality poetry they were inspired to write during the sessions. They also enjoy authentic and vulnerable discussions. He believes this brings healing and provides a way for people to learn how to lift others up.
James Coats, Future through Art
James has enjoyed teaching during his Be The Change workshops. He wants to expand that ability in the future.Recently he created an Ekphrasis’ poetry workshop. It explored the Black Arts Movement of the ’60s. These two events influenced him to expand his teaching and add arts workshops in the future.
Coats is excited to be teaching poetry to the youth this Fall. He has two new poetry collections to be released in 2022. James is also working on a painting collection for exhibition. It is called AFROmance, it explores how Black love is expressed in everyday life. He feels these contributions will help create radical change in ourselves and our community.
James will be sharing his poetry in-person on October 9th. The event will be held at the Panamanian International Film Festival & The East Los Angeles Film Festival.
Past the pandemic goals include some touring. James Coats intends to continue his future through art into avenues he has not been before. He will continue with all things creative.