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A Continuation of Women and Poetry

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to introduce Danette Cross, a fellow author in the recently released Voices from the Block. I am continuing my series on women writers who are also poets as a nod to Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). This time out I am super excited to feature Kisura Usiku.

Kisura Pic

Kisura writes poetry and fiction and freelances in her spare time. When she’s not writing, she’s making the world a better place through her role as Special Educator in her local school district. In Voices from the Block she has the most diverse offering–a poem, a fiction start (the first few scenes of a novel in progress) and a creative non fiction essay.

I asked Kisura a few questions so we could get to know her better and below are her responses. I hope you enjoy reading her comments and learning more about this dynamic young writer.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever pursued it…writing sort of strolled up to my house one day, knocked, and when I opened the door, writing moved in. I guess that means we just clicked. Writing showed up and the connection felt like the most organic thing that’s happened to me.

  1. How do you get in the writing mood?

Reading, listening to great music or watching other creatives work…I also get into the mood to write via emotional pulls: if someone pisses me off or if I am overwhelmed with love, lust, bitterness, rage or snark…I write it out.

  1. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?”

It’s different for different forms for me…with a short story, I enjoy writing endings that leave you wanting more…you know, that’s the end of that conflict, but there’s something lingering or something that makes a reader wish the story went on. A poem, I know it’s done when I’ve conveyed the message in a way that vibrates…like the message echoes in the head of the reader. It’s difficult to pull that off, at least it is to me, so sometimes I will leave a poem unfinished for awhile because I’ve lost the mood or I’ve gone through the emotion that has caused me to pen the poem in the first place. I usually come back to it when the emotion resurfaces.

  1. What or who has been your greatest writing influence?

Um..well there are quite a few and the list is still growing, but some of my favorite writers are Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, John Steinbeck, Gillian Flynn, Colleen Hoover, Paula Hawkins, Caroline Kepnes, Robert Dugoni, Robert Bryndza, and quite recently: Yaa Gyasi and Angie Thomas.

  1. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.?

No preference…just write what moves me.

  1. What are your future writing plans?

I plan to finish and self publish a labor of love: a book of poems about, for, and to my husband…as my first self published book. I have no intention of marketing or doing anything that falls within the traditional realms of publishing/self publishing with this book and will only publish one copy…it’s personal, just for him, but an accomplishment for me because it will be my first published book. It’s the most romantic gesture I can offer…and he deserves that and then some. From there I’m working on a mystery and a literary fiction novel…

  1. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”

Ha, me too, let’s stop talking and do it.

  1. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands?

I still can’t believe it…I held it in my hands and just looked at it and thought, WOW! I’m in here (regarding Voices from the Block)? I half expected to open it and discover that I was the victim of some cruel joke and my writing was cut out of the anthology at the witching hour.

  1. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding?

What isn’t? But if I had to pick I’d say the most challenging thing to me is finding a great cover designer and editor. The most rewarding is avoiding clichés while writing.

  1. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing?

That’s a question that goes against me living in the now…LOL. How do I feel? I feel that I am the future in publishing…not in a self centered way, but in a visualize and manifest my dreams, law of attraction type of way…so I see published works in my future. As for the industry of publishing: it’s controversial…the big five have clout but there is a growing eclipse with self publishing and indie authors. It’s no longer looked down upon…and that’s a great thing for ALL writers in my opinion. You get total control over your art from start to finish…

To check out Kisura’s writings, click here! And I’ll be back in a few weeks with more women as poets.

One Month Wasn’t Enough

Last month we celebrated Women’s History Month and this month we celebrate poets and poetry during National Poetry Month. Because LIFE has been hectic since January, I wasn’t able to post my usual features on fabulous women authors and women groundbreakers. So without consulting the gods, I decided to carry over March and mix it up with April to feature some amazing women poets, some of whom (who vs. whom, anyone know?) I happen to share publishing pages with in Voices from the Block.

So without further delay, the first featured woman poet,

Danette Pic

Danette Cross

Danette is not only a soul-stirring poet, but also…

  1. a gifted vocalist
  2. an inspirational blogger
  3. an expert proofreader
  4. a newlywed
  5. and an all around good person. She’s one of those rare people you easily bond with because she has such an accepting, loving spirit.

I asked Danette to share a bit about herself as a creative person and here’s what she had to say from her soul to her pen to you…

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I love creative expression and realized over time that writing repeatedly gave me the most comfort to the point that I, on occasion, crave the feeling of a pen in my hand.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? I try to create a relaxing environment, sometimes with instrumental music. This allows my thoughts to flow uninterrupted.
  3. How do you know when a poem is “finished?” A poem is finished when the thought is resolved in some way. Typically, it stops “speaking” or “doing”.
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? My love for reading and words as well as various poets and authors, like Maya Angelou, e.e. cummings, Emily Pound, Victoria Christopher Murray, Francine Rivers, Frank Perretti, J. California Cooper, Donna Hill and Cornel West.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? Poetry. It’s my way of getting my thoughts on paper without strict grammar rules.
  6. What are your future writing plans? More poetry and hopefully some storytelling.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?” Go for it and take it seriously. Use other critical pairs of eyes to produce a good read.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? “Wow. I’m printed on a page.” I was blown away, humbled and exposed. My secret was out. 🙂
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding? The most challenging was adhering to deadlines. The most rewarding was completing each step along the way.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? 2 things. 1.) I am excited for those who self-publish. Why wait on some select group to approve your work when you can approve yourself? 2.) I hope physical books last forever versus electronic everything. I love hardcovers and am fond of paperbacks.

A big thanks to Danette for opening herself to the world both through this interview and through her lovely poetry. You can learn even more about Danette and read some of her beautiful thoughts by visiting her blog at frolicfinagle.tumblr.com.

Thanks for celebrating women, poetry and more with me. I encourage one and all to go out and discover a new poet this month…maybe it’s you!

Welcome 2016!

Finally, it’s here…2016. Yeah!!!!

I am so glad to wave bye-bye to 2015. It was not my favorite year. To try and avoid another 2015, I am actually going to put more thought into visualizing or goal-setting for 2016 (instead of rushing through it like I did last year). So when I read Pam Boyd’s (author/writer) blog post titled, “What to do at the End?” (see below), I thought it a great way to prep for a serious goal-setting session. If you’re going through the process of visualization or goal-setting for the new year, I encourage you to read her message. And if you discover you want more of her “quick inspirations” for a fast-moving world, click here.

Here’s hoping you achieve all of your goals and resolutions for 2016 and beyond.

TWO MINUTE TUNE-UP by Pam Boyd

What to Do at the End?

by Pam Boyd

(At the end of every year, before the new one takes over, I reread my journal to capture moments, highlights, learning points, and the books that made a difference. This poem is about that practice.)

 

You’d forget most of the days beneath the fallen year

If you hadn’t hidden its massive trunk

For your private excursions into the thick wood

(Where it lies infinitely solemn and still)

To climb up onto it, once again, at its roots

To stand steady and reverently upon its weathered bark

To walk curiously down and

Through its tangled branches

And step deep into its blanketed leaves

 

All those brilliant, magnificent leaves!

Leaves that would be compost

Darkened and buried so soon after they were gone

Unless

You carefully preserved them

For this moment

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Poetry Out Loud

April marks the observance of National Poetry Month and an explosion of “Poetry Out Loud” events. Poetry Out Loud is a contest that encourages young people to learn about poetry, enhance their public speaking skills and increase their appreciation for poetry’s impact on society. It is cousin to the highly acclaimed “Brave New Voices,” which if you haven’t witnessed it, you must. It is truly something special.

Although the focus for both Poetry Out Loud and Brave New Voices is on young people, many adults have embraced Poetry Out Loud especially and twisted it into spin-off events. These events have included poetry discussions, readings, open mics and more. One such event occurs this Friday, April 24, in Dallas, Texas. The Writer’s Block, a neighborhood or block of African-American writers, presents this event, bringing to the stage Slam Master Rock Baby.

Rock Baby

Roderick “Rock Baby” Goudy is viewed by many as a natural performer. His explosive performances, built on his distinctive style of comedic poetry, captivate audiences from beginning to end. A combination of thoughtful words, upbeat rhythms and amazing vocals has earned him headliner as well as supportive roles at events held at colleges, comedy clubs and poetry venues. Rock Baby is a HBO “Def Poetry Jam” favorite, and the recipient of numerous awards and rankings, acquired in performance poetry and slam competitions. For ten consecutive years, he has served as Slam Master for the Dallas Poetry Slam and consistently earns a position on the Dallas Slam team representing Dallas at local, regional and national competitions.

I have seen Rock Baby perform and was blown away. He is truly engaging and amazing! If you’re in the area, come on out and enjoy the show. If you’re not, check out these clips of Brave New Voices performances.

Event Details:

Friday, April 24, 2015

7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Half Price Bookstore – 5803 E. NW Highway, Dallas, Community Room

Free admission; Family-friendly fun

MC’d by Gary L. Hawthorne, Poet and Author of Poetic Rhythms for Life’s Moods

Behold my Poetry Giants

Where did April go?

Seems like it just started and we were looking forward to a full month of National Poetry Month events. And now, there’s only a few days left in the month and all of the events have wrapped up (which were all wonderful, by the way). So I guess that means it is time to add my farewell to National Poetry Month.

I thought it appropriate to end the celebration by sharing my list of Poetry Giants. My who? you may be asking. My Poetry Giants. These are the poets who I love, who I read over and over. My Poetry Giants strengthen and encourage me; their words lift me and soothe my soul. Their works communicate my thoughts, dreams, beliefs and wishes in succinct, rhyming and sometimes non-rhyming verse. These are the poets I owe a debt to and I pay them gladly by creating my own literary works.

So now that you know this much, let me share the rest by listing their names. They are:

Langston Hughes

Martha Switzer

Langston Hughes

Venson Fields

Langston Hughes

Pam Fields

Langston Hughes

Ruth Stewart

Langston Hughes

Gary L. Hawthorne

and of course, Langston Hughes

I know that I’ll be reading (and in some cases re-reading) these poets’ words over the next 365 days, until the next National Poetry Month, and even beyond that. But I also look forward to being introduced to the works of other poets–new and established. Ohhh, it’s going to be a delicious year of verse!

So tell me…what Poetry Giant(s) will you be reading for the next 365? Who is/are your Poetry Giant(s)?

Poetry’s Creative Reach

During one of our critique group meetings, the discussion veered off feedback and onto the topic of “what inspires a creative work?” Responses to the question ranged from rain or dreary weather to physical activity (such as mowing the yard or walking) to reading a written work to listening to music to viewing visual art. Well, we eventually got back on track with dishing out feedback but that discussion stayed with me and caused me to wonder if any creative works had inspired other creative works. And following that thought was, I wonder if poetry (what with it being National Poetry Month) had inspired any creative works? When I found myself with a few free minutes, I tinkered around on the Internet in search of answers to my wonderings and discovered that yes, indeed, creativity had inspired creativity and poetry had influenced other art forms.

You may be as surprised as me to learn that some poems have inspired songs, musical compositions, paintings, novels, and more. For example, did you know that The Charlie Daniels Band, influenced by the poem The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet created The Devil Went Down to Georgia, a song that hit number one on the country and pop charts? (See http://www.songfacts.com for a detailed list of more songs inspired by poetry.)

And did you know that many painting and other visual art classes use poetry to jumpstart the creation of visual art works? Favorite poems used in this exercise include works by Dickinson, Shelley, Carroll, Stevenson, and Wordsworth. The famous English painter/artist/illustrator David Hockney openly credits Whitman and Cavafy for inspiring many of his paintings and etchings.

As a novelist, I cannot ignore the influence poetry has had on a long list of novelists and short story writers. And the one poet who has exerted the greatest influence on longer form writers? The original Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

All of the information I discovered on poetry’s influence on other creative works was fascinating and as I signed off the Internet to turn to my own writings, I felt a challenge brewing in me. Dare I read one of my favorite poets’ works (Langston Hughes, perhaps) to see what, if any, creative work it ignites in me? I think I will. What about you? Are you sensing the call to read a few lines by Neruda, Poe, Angelou, Brooks, Yeats, or Cummings to see what jumps off? I dare you.

Week Two

It’s week two of National Poetry Month and wow, it’s already been a great time of reading and listening to great poetry. I had the extreme pleasure of attending the book launch for Voices from the Block:  A Legacy of African-American Literature last weekend and enjoyed two entertaining spoken word poets. I also had a super time at the Writer’s Reception, sponsored by the Texas Writers Journal. I read poems, met new authors, and learned more about the Texas Writers Journal’s updated and expanded literary journal.  And the fun continues in a few days when I attend Poetry Out Loud at Lucky Dog Books in Dallas (Oak Cliff). I am eagerly awaiting that event, but until that date arrives, I am content to get my poetry fix from reading (in some cases, re-reading) presidential inauguration poems.

If you watched or listened to the United States presidential inaugurations for President Barack Obama (2009 and 2013), you know that a poet participated in the swearing-in ceremonies. Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco are the two poets who stood at the podium before the nation sharing their words of hope, history and unity. They joined a short list of poets who either wrote a poem specific to the occasion and/or recited a previously written work to honor the incoming president. Other poets on the list include Robert Frost, who was the first to kick off the tradition in 1961 (John F. Kennedy), Maya Angelou (William Clinton), James Dickey (Jimmy Carter), and Miller Williams (Clinton).

Many of the presidential inauguration poems have been published (or re-published) as a solo piece in a gift book edition which includes beautiful leather binding and specially crafted paper. In honor of National Poetry Month, I encourage you to scour your local bookstore or resale shop for these editions. They make for special reading and are a nice collector’s item. The titles to look for are:

The Gift Outright – Frost

The Strength of Fields – Dickey

On the Pulse of Morning – Angelou

Of History and Hope – Williams

Praise Song for the Day, Praise Song for Struggle – Alexander

One Today – Blanco

Until next week, happy poetry reading and writing!