Finally, I am publishing as a poet. My book, Looking, Seeing, was released this week. The first time I discovered my passion for writing, I wrote a poem. Somehow, though, I didn’t feel like a poet (whatever that means), so I hid the poem away for years. I didn’t know anyone who read poetry often, much less anyone who claimed to be a poet. I was scared of being judged. Don’t we all fear that at times?
During my teen years, however, I still struggled to find my voice, to share with people what I was seeing on my journey through life. I didn’t own a camera (well, eventually I owned a Polaroid), so I tried to capture what I saw and felt using my words to create the images. I saw farm workers and city employees, grandparents and aging aunts and uncles, young cousins, and new friends. I was a listener, so I heard them share their life stories. I saw them in their unique environments. And I heard gossip and rumors and jokes more than I wish to acknowledge.
As I moved around in Atlanta, in Memphis, and in Nashville, I remained a listener…I heard the stories of people from many faiths, from many walks of life, from many career fields, from many economic levels, and from many political groups. I never settled neatly into one place or with one single denomination or political party. I was just me, wandering through many perspectives and still listening.
I hope you discover and enjoy all of my quirks and complexities in this collection of poetry. I have tried to live my life in a way that allows me to truly see a wide diversity of the people who populate this wonderful world we all call home. I have also tried to listen and learn and grow along the way, hopefully bringing love along on the journey. As I grow, I have tried to honestly admit and learn from my own failures and weaknesses. I don’t claim to be perfect (or even close to it).
Some of you who think you know me may be shocked at some of the poems. If you tried to neatly place me in your faith category or your political party or your social group, you may have assumed that in all areas of life I agreed with you. However, I hope you keep reading. I am a sum of all my parts, a student of all who opened their hearts and mentored me, a family member to all who accepted me, and a listener to all who trusted me with their stories. I am whole, yet I am also unique and complex like the pieces of stained glass that come together to form one window.
I can be a child of God and one who embraces diversity. I can be faithful and one who fights for social justice. I can be a quiet listener and a loud advocate. It’s who I am as the whole, not fitting neatly into any predefined role that someone may wish me to fill. So here I am as the poet… enjoy the journey with me.
And, Readers, find your own voice in here. Bring your own images and stories to these readings. Ask what my words mean to me, but then claim them and make them your own. Let’s join our voices together as we interpret and re-interpret the words and stories shared. Ask hard questions. Seek challenging answers. Move out of your comfort zone with some of these poems and find a shared familiar image through others.
We are uniquely created, but our lives are woven together in the fabric of our world that we call home. Our love and hopes and fears can be a place to start conversations that bring us closer together. Our scars can teach others about pain that comes from not being seen, not being heard, or not being believed—pain that comes through deep grief, and pain that comes from abuse from others. We are all scarred, yet we are all beautifully and wonderfully made. Let’s all look to see the beauty in each life, the strengths of each person, the soul of the person you might have normally walked past. When we look, let’s put aside our taught prejudices, set down our beliefs based on partial truths and rumors, and let go of our fears so we can truly see the gifts of the people we meet along our journeys.
I would like to end this post with two of my favorite quotes about poetry:
“… poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” —Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." —Dead Poet Society