New Orleans has been the muse for many an artist. Local poet and painter Christian Davenport, better known as “Cubs the Poet,” finds his inspiration from the people, places and community that encompass the city. For years, Cubs and his typewriter have popped up around New Orleans, creating custom poems for visitors in the French Quarter, couples getting married, his neighbors Mr. Charles and Mr. Daryl, or whoever sparks creativity in him that day. “Something so small as a poem can help people see past their barriers and build a bridge to better a relationship,” said Cubs. Recently, one of Cubs’ paintings “Zulu Queen,” a portrait of his daughter Soule, was up for auction for the Ogden Museum’s Magnolia Ball. Now, we dive deeper into the artist’s lifelong creative loves, as well as some new endeavors on the horizon.
Q: What is it about writing and poetry that you’re passionate enough about to want to share it with the world? I see each person as a poem. We have our day-to-day vocabulary, whether it’s based on work or identity. We tend to speak from a place of experience. I write poems for the soul. How often do you find yourself speaking from that sacred space?
Q: Why do you think people respond so positively to your poems? The poems are intended to be reflections. I hope that people see themselves in the poems. You also have to consider the context, these poems are created at the moment during special occasions. I’ve recently completed three custom books of poetry for three daughters whose mother died from cancer. The stories I heard and turned into poems are stories the daughters never heard, they can now have an expanded memory of who their mother was and whose lives she impacted. Whether at a wedding or funeral, poetry tends to assist people in sharing from a place of vulnerability and love. I also feel people pick up on my energy and realize how much joy and love poetry brings to me. There’s an abundance of this energy. That is my thought, you would do better asking them!
Q: Has painting always been something you’ve been interested in? No. I drew when I was bored. I started drawing when I realized words weren’t the full observation of a moment.
Q: What is your favorite part about expressing yourself through that medium? It’s a way to talk to myself. Be with myself. There are no wrongs or rights. Just silence – turning pains into paint. Using color instead of a word. I remember when the Peter and Paul Hotel was closed at the start of the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd had just taken place. I asked Natalie if I could use the church to paint a response to the murder. At the time I did not want to write about it. I finished the portrait six days later, and decided to show it. For one day, I opened up the church doors and allowed individuals or couples in one at a time to view the painting. With each person or group, I would greet them upon entering with the statement – “I love you.” Some people said it back, others were freaked out, questioning who is this guy saying “I love you” to me, a complete stranger? As I sat there wondering “How could this moment be a success since I was not selling the piece or donating it to a cause?” I suddenly had the thought that I had never told my father I loved him as an adult. So, I dedicated the exhibit to my father. A few hours later my father and mother came to check out the painting, and I had to say to my father in person, “I love you.” After hearing him say it right back, painting at that moment served its purpose. Art is healing. At the start of this project, I went in with the intention to give my aid to the BLM movement not noticing that my own personal life needed love and healing as well.
Q: Painting and poetry are covered, so what’s next for Cubs the Poet? Poetry and Painting are lifelong endeavors, which help me heal and share insight into the process. However, what’s next is another form of healing- the marijuana industry. I have recently started my first kiosk CBD and Delta 8 business. [It’s called] Single Origin Solutions, which will provide CBD products to consumers via a vending machine. Each product will be tailored to the type of experience a person is looking for mainly focusing on anxiety and creativity. In its infancy stage, we are looking to introduce these to the public via Mr. Wolf’s Coffee, Columns Hotel, and MSY.
As I was carving out my space in New Orleans, I was still in college at Dillard University, I told my parents during my senior year, I would return to school. I, however, decided that semester to become a full-time street poet.
What’s a spot in the city that inspires you most? Algiers Point.
Favorite portrait painted so far? My grandmother, Mimi, and my youngest daughter, Esme. As I painted both of them, as with all POETRAITS, I have an interview segment. In this instance, Mimi, turned the tables and asked me if I was happy. Mimi is the person I credit for my love of poetry and fascination with imagination. So, for her to ask me that question as I was doing something I love, inspired me to push forward and dream bigger. There’s also Mike, a graduating senior from New Harmony High. I painted him during his Capstone project. We sat outside of the school, near the playground, and his classmates would pass by as I painted him. I notice how much he was drawing from that experience creatively. Knowing how much being painted meant to him really reconfirmed this POETRAIT project.
Favorite local bar? R Bar before they took the pool table out, now The Bar at Columns Hotel.