Tag Archive | poetry

Here’s Lei…Another “Voices” Author

I am proud to present another author whose work appears in the anthology, “Voices from the Block,” Lei Scott.

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Lei is a poet, songwriter, creative non-fiction memoirist, and a jazz singer. She and I met over ten years ago when we were both volunteers for a community program called, the African-American Read-In. When the Read-In ended, our paths diverged and then one unexpected day, we reconnected through our writers group, the Writers’ Block, www.writersblockinc.org. When I first read her pieces in “Voices,” I was blown away. Her storytelling ability is amazing. In fact, I’d call her a natural considering she hasn’t taken many writing classes and has never attended a writing conference. She is a neophyte to the literary world. Below is the interview I conducted with Lei. I hope you enjoy learning more about this young lady and that you’ll get a chance to read some of her writings.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I didn’t pursue writing, writing pursued me and there was nothing creative about it. At the age of eleven, my mother made her transition. Pen and paper called me, luring me to unleash the pain into written words. This was a way of escape for me. I could take it out of me and pretend the ugliness ’round me was only words on paper.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? Most of the time, I don’t get in the mood. The mood gets in me. When “it” calls, I better answer. Sometimes I’m defiant, especially in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping “real good.” But this never works out for me because no matter how awesome and wonderful I think the idea is and I just know I’m going to remember “it,” in the morning, I seldom do. However, while I don’t prepare myself to get in a writing mood, my favorite writing space consists of a beautiful bright sun, mountains, the view and sounds of water flowing, birds chirping in lush green trees and a nice cold or hot something to drink in my hand.
  3. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?” When there is nothing left to write, a peace comes over me announcing “it is done.”
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? Ann Fields (I promise I did not pay her to say this!). Ann is a great mentor and has supported and encouraged me as I take my baby steps. She is knowledgeable and well skilled in her writing craft. She just doesn’t write words, she creates visions with her words. She is a beautiful sister with a big heart. I appreciate her and everything she has done for me and the Writers’ Block, Inc.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? I don’t know yet, I’m just starting. Before this is all over I plan to put my creative hands to whatever spirit brings to me to write, and taste all the flavors. I feel blessed that there are so many forms to choose from and the universe is infinite.
  6. What are your future writing plans? Keep growing, writing, expressing, cleansing, healing and sharing my spirit through words and music until all the hurt is gone and every heart is smiling. Looks like I’ll be writing for a very long time.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”  I get excited and talk about Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block. I say “go for it” and “everyone has at least one book in them.” I don’t say anything negative or discouraging. They will find out how challenging it can be at times and when they reach those stumbling blocks I hope they have their own “Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block” in their corner.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? Thank you God, we did it.
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? This was my first published piece. Exposing myself to others, during the critique process, and listening to, what I felt at the time, as judgement on my life and creativity was hard. I learned to grow thick skin and keep on writing. What was the most rewarding? Realizing that I actually completed the process, I didn’t give up or give in.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? Publishing has become easier with the ability to self-publish. I see an increase in self-publishing as we move into the future, opening doors for writers who might not have had the opportunity to be read. The challenge of getting out to the masses may still exist and the major publishing companies may still control who makes it to the top. But making it to the top and bringing in a bunch of shekels is not always the most important thing – using the gift God gave you is. Write on Writers, Write on, Lei Scott.

So, you’ve just met Lei Scott. I told you she was impressive. And I think you’ll be even more impressed after you’ve read some of her writings. Excuse me now while I go prepare myself for her upcoming songwriting workshop. I know it’s going to be as awesome as she is. Happy reading! Live creatively!

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.

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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Hear Becky Roar!

Unfortunately Women’s History Month (March) has ended but I’ve found a way (aha!) to keep the spotlight on women history makers while also acknowledging National Poetry Month (April).

National Poetry Month

I am blessed to have met several women poets who are amazing wordsmiths and lovely survivors. Two in particular are Becky Baggett and Serena Wills. I asked these two poets the same question I asked Lovenia Leapart and Carol Balawyder, two women writers that I featured in March. That question: what woman/woman writer influenced you and/or your literary career? Both Becky and Serena agreed to answer the question in article form and share their articles with me. I, in turn, am happy to share them with you. First up is Becky.

Becky blogs at Sweet Alchemy Poetry Farm and there you can enjoy some of her poetry as well as her article on Adeline Hornbek, pioneer and woman history maker. Click here for a treat…https://sweetalchemypoetryfarm.wordpress.com/

Poetry

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!

Happy National Poetry Month

I’m a little behind in sharing my well wishes for an extraordinary and exciting poetry month. There are many events and programs planned throughout the month of April which will highlight the gift of poetry and its importance to humanity. I, too, am planning to shine the light on poetry through my weekly blog posts. In my posts, I’ll focus on the poet laureate position, presidential inauguration poems, poems as songs, and poetry giants. So without further ado, my first nod to National Poetry Month…

When I first heard the title Poet Laureate I was intrigued. I had just learned that Gwendolyn Brooks, a Black woman, like me, had been appointed poet laureate for the United States. I was so proud but also ignorant. What the heck is a poet laureate? I wondered. What do they do? I don’t remember what life event was going on at the time that prevented me from researching answers to my questions, but here it is years later and I now have the answers.

First, poet laureate is an appointed position. The Librarian of Congress selects a status poet to the position. A status poet is one who has published a collection(s) of poems, has achieved some level of recognition for their work, has probably won awards for their writings, and is involved in promoting the art of poetry, and more.

Second, the position’s length of term is one year but some terms have been extended at the pleasure of the librarian such as with the current poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey. While in the position, the poet laureate is responsible for pushing the agenda of poetry. It is up to the poet laureate to determine how this is achieved but most conduct readings, lecture, host literary events, conduct radio and TV interviews and programs, compose poems for the nation, etc.

Third, there is not only a poet laureate for the United States but also for each state. Well, for many of the states; a few states do not have a poet laureate position. Responsibilities and requirements at the state level may differ from the national role.

NTrethewey

Trethewey, our current United States Poet Laureate claims Mississippi as her home state. She is the author of four books, one of which Native Guard won the Pulitzer Prize. Her work tends to focus on history, tragedy and mixed race issues; all subjects that have touched and therefore shaped her life. Below is a list of her other titles:

Domestic Work

Beyond Katrina

Bellocq’s Ophelia

Thrall

This April during National Poetry Month, I encourage you to take some time to check out one of her books. Her words will move you beyond belief.

Until next week, happy reading and writing of poetry.

(Photo copyright Jon Rou)