Wordsmith Aja Monet has a mission: to change poetry as we know it.
The 27-year-old New York native is a poet by nature. She grew up participating in poetry slams, and she released her first book of poetry in 2010. But most recently, she has set her poems to music. Her first EP, titled Courage, dropped just two weeks ago, and she gave ESSENCE.com an exclusive look at her first music video for her poem, "Be Brave."
"I've always wanted to do things with music," Monet said. "It just was a matter of being at the right time at the right place in my life where I was confident and vulnderable enough to try something different and engaging with poetry. Engaging poetry with music seemed kind of like a no brainer."
Monet enlisted the help of animator Brandon Ray to create a video that captured the inspiring theme of the poem. The lyrics—Dear little firefly, can I capture you? Come take a seat in my mason jar; I want to rap to you—paint an imaginative, playful image in the audience's mind, and Monet said that she didn't want to lose that spirit.
"When you're a child, I think you feel invincible a little," she said. "Something about that quality of the magic of it, the childlike-ness, really inspired [Ray's] creative process."
When it comes to Monet, though, she gets her inspiration from the great Maya Angelou. One of the most important things in life, she says, is courage. Monet believes that something as simple as love requires a great deal of courage. It is courage that empowers people, and it is courage that pushed Monet to combine her love of poetry and song.
"Love and courage remind you that you are this small thing in a grand universe, in a grand story," she said. "It's just like if you look at the animation: Each stroke, each thing in the picture is important, and it's very, very, very, very detailed, but that one small detail alone is very small. It takes all of those details to make a beautiful image in this beautiful picture."