A Writer Must First Be A Reader

A Writer Must First Be A Reader.

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“I’ve learned t…

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

As sad as death is, especially the death of a writer who impacted so many young minds and hearts, the acknowledgement of Maya Angelou’s death is inspiration in itself. 

The world understands the impact of our loss. Not only did her mind have a great capacity for wisdom, but she shared that wisdom bravely, through her poems and books. She did not remain silent, as many of us do, but she wrote. She contributed. And following her death, may we do the same. 

 

How to Get a Puzzling Poem

Most people avoid poetry. It’s no secret. People do not like what they don’t understand.

Poems are complex. They are like riddles that point to deep emotion and often tell an abstract story. Poems are not to be understood in one reading. Like songs or even favorite passages from books, we listen and re-read until we find their meaning. Most likely, there are several different meanings.

Realizing what a poet is trying to say is one of the greatest epiphanies one will ever have. It’s like reading a quote that is totally relatable.

Poetry is an art

Here are some clues to help you reach that breath-taking moment of clarity:

  • Read through the entire poem before trying to dig for answers.
  • What does the title tell you? Does it imply a positive or negative message?
  • Who is the speaker of the poem? Remember, the speaker is not always the author.
  • Take note of structure. Do the stanzas have their own theme? Where are the shifts in subject, place, or time?
  • I know it can be boring, but scanning a poem for rhythm will give you a better idea of tone.
  • Is the diction mostly positive or negative connotations?

Poetry is difficult because the author has to send a message in very little words. Each word must serve a purpose. Poetry is a creative process. And you are a literary detective. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?” whenever you read.

Often, your meaning may not be the meaning. Stephen Burt, a poem critic and English Professor explains this during his TED talk (TED talks are an amazing phenomenon, side note). He analyzes several poems in front of an audience to demonstrate how even experienced literary detectives don’t know if they solve the puzzle correctly every time.

On the other side of the pen, poets have the advantage because there is so much freedom. You can say what you need to say for you, and let the reader do the work. Writing is artful expression. Enjoy it on both ends of the pen.

No April Fools – It’s Poetry Month!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 8.49.20 AM My fellow writers, It is time to come out of our caves of  hibernation. The  same cave that shields us from shame ridden writer’s block, crappy work, and countless revisions. It is our season! We must engrave words on any paper that yields white space (unpaid pills, receipts, anything will do). Don’t let this so called paperless world stop you. A drafted text message will suffice.

It’s NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!  Writing should be celebrated every day.

But use the month of April to revive your passion:

  1. Follow your favorite poet for the month. Imitate his or her poems in your own writing
  2. Write one line of a poem each day. See what you have at the end of the month!
  3. Get back to the simple stuff. Write limericks and haikus. Real structure oriented type stuff. Test your creativity.
  4. Go to a poetry slam! It will open your mind to countless techniques for your own writing. This is where words comes alive (seriously).
  5. Perform at an open mic night. This is where you can get honest feedback from diverse crowds.

I hope you challenge yourself as a writer to get back to your words this month. I know it is hard in a society where books are building up dust and pictures and video rule the web. But we still have work to do!

WRITE AND LET IT BE BEAUTIFUL!

The Knowledge Degree, A Poem

Spoken word can be so liberating. It is almost as if the poet is throwing a pretty fit with rhymes, and alliteration and sprinkles of metaphors and imagery that keeps you hanging on until their very last period.

It is an art form that must be practiced. A true performance of emotion within a poetic structure that demands attention from its listeners.

Here is a poem I wrote that is inspired by Zora Howard and her poem Bi-racial Hair. 

The Knowledge Degree

This day in age,

you need a college degree to do anything.

A skinny sheet of paper

equipped with a scribbled signature

of someone who is a little more knowledgable than you

(who probably attended the same college as you).

Proof that you endured a structured system,

allowed yourself to be punctured by them,

poked and provoked by them.

The old you, murdered, resurrected, and molded by men

who trapped you at the age of five

and told you that the world has one divide

between black and white.

No vision of religion.

Folding your hands

in front of your face at the lunch table

was a disgrace. So you dissed grace

and God became a name

you were no longer allowed to say.

But the teacher makes you stand!

and pledge your allegiance.

Place your hand over a heart you don’t understand

because since you pledged to America

you are part of a united State

and no more your own man.

Instead, you are a student.

You will disover only what is uncovered.

Dig for the truth,

it will take tears to recover.

Red blood is first blue,

Old is first new,

and most times,

we don’t feel the pain until we see the bruise.

Let us open our eyes

and truly Unite!

Break out of these chained-brains

that have been overrun and overwashed.

Reclaim this blood in our veins and

Fight!

for the slaves of our day.

I have gone to school

and followed rule after rule.

I’ve memorized the lives

of Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King.

Tell me ONE thing,

who eXed out Malcolm

from my favorite, sacred texts?

Don’t tell me about the American eagle

but leave out the Falcon.

Honestly, what else happened?

Oh, that takes graduation and further documentation?

Lord, give me patience-

and money to make another payment

to a government who uses my currency

for their own entertainment,

when all I want

is a fair, complete education.

SILENT P-OWE-IT Twitter as a Virtual Diary: Tweet-Keep Your Secrets

technobiography is what it sounds like no matter how new media scholars try to decorate it. It is technology and biography combined. Technology helps piece together our life record or autobiography through social media.

Teens are no longer hiding leather-bound journals with silver locks and keys under their mattresses anymore. There are no more secrets. Kids are snitching on themselves in social media. Posting pics of their #WCW, or Women-crush Wednesdays and #TBT, or throwback thursdays. There is no more shame in having a crush or who kissed who last Thursday.

You can’t be private on Facebook. At least, you can’t expect to be private and have friends. But what if we could post our deepest, darkest secret on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – or all three – and still be sure that our secret is still just that – a secret?

Diary, secrets, poetry

My Virtual Diary – Not Private! Read Me!

Poetry allows us to do so. What rekindled my interest in poetry is the ability to express what is in the caves of your own heart with full vulnerability without being eaten up by your own frailty. People will read what you have written of course. But if the poetry is powerful enough, it will transcend into their own lives. In turn, they will reflect on their own lives instead of yours.

Let’s start with sharing our secrets on Twitter. Oh, don’t be scared.

HOW TO TWEET-KEEP YOUR SECRETS:

1. Haikus

Haikus or short 3-lined, syllable-structured poems are a good starting point. The 140-character limit is tedious for any writer, but will help you in the revision and editing process in the long run!

2. Be Specific

Don’t worry about the details being too revealing. Add color, noise, sound, emotion! These elements do make your poem more true, which only helps the reader relate more.

3. Rhyming

Not always necessary, but gives rhythm to your words. If your poem is of high-quality, your followers will probably think you tweeted the lyrics to some hot song they haven’t heard yet.

4. Pictures

Tagging pictures to your “tweet poems” will enhance connection with the reader. Don’t forget, we do live in a visual world.

5. Freedom of Speech – Know Your Rights

If you have some gory confessions (which some of us might), don’t be afraid to watch your language. But I challenge you to show your confessions using language tricks like metaphors and puns. How can you make the reader think about what you are trying to say?

For example, let’s say I cheated on a test and I want to twitter vent about it. But I can’t broadcast that on social media, so here is a sample tweet:

Look left, silence.
look right, silence.
Look down, write with violence.
Scribble once, Scribble twice.
I know the answer is right.
The tweet has rhyming and word play. At a glance, the reader is unable to tell that I cheated on my test earlier that day.
Poetry can free us from forfeiting our privacy online. We will be more creative in our communication and our technobiography will be much more than typical “selfies” and mundane “What I’m doing now” updates.

Most Offensive Word In the English Language

The word “nigger” is considered one of the most offensive words in the English language. White slave masters referred to slaves as “niggers” to remind them of their less-than-human status. The word’s current meaning is more friendly. It is used by the youth to greet friends and in rap songs.

Is the new meaning a re-appropriation of the word? Or have people simply been desensitized by its common usage?

The Fritz Pollard Alliance monitors diversity in the NFL. They are implementing rules to penalize use of the N-word on the field and in the locker rooms.

ESPN commentators argue whether the policy can truly work. The following questions are addressed here:

  • How will black coaches react to the new rules?
  • How will referees police the rule objectively?
  • Who is and isn’t allowed to use the N-word?
  • What is the true purpose of the rules?

Rapper, Common, claims justifies using the word in his lyrics because it helps him better communicate with his audience. Common says he will continue to use the word to reach those who need to hear his work. Also, he agrees that certain people are not allowed to use the word and he will continue to defend that belief when necessary.

The N-word is prevalent in the sports world, and has been since African-Americans were allowed to participate. Back then, white fans would yell the world at black athletes. Now, black athletes use the word in reference to their teammates as a friendly gesture.

Should the word be ripped from the dictionary? Or should its definition be changed? How has the word impacted your life?

Feel free to comment Below!

5 Writers who Escaped from Prison: How Did They Do It?

A political prisoner is someone who is imprisoned strictly for his political beliefs or values. But that doesn’t happen in America. Or does it?

In this post, I will honor 5 African-American political prisoners who figured out how to escape imprisonment through writing. For them writing was not just an art, it was their only voice.

Martin Luther King Jr.  

Martin Luther King Jr. was unable to complete his autobiography before he was killed.  However, his Letter from Birmingham Jail is well known. In this letter, he is responding to eight white religious leaders from the South who criticized his nonviolent fighting strategies. King’s letter carries a smack-in-the-face tone. He is brutally honest as he addresses injustices to the black community. The letter is included in several biographies written about him.

Letter from Birmingham jail

Martin Luther King Jr. is released from Birmingham jail

 

Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was the first autobiography I ever read. As a fiction lover, autobiographies are not my first choice. With every page, I felt like I was walking beside Malcolm X his younger days finding trouble in the streets of Harlem to standing behind him at the podium. X does not paint an idealized image of himself. Instead, he provides raw documentation of his life during good moments and bad. He exposes every thought, every sin, and every achievement. This book will make you challenge yourself to do the same.

 

“I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda… I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

 

~Malcolm X, An Autobiography of Malcolm X

Angela Davis

Angela Davis, Autobiography, Activist

Davis hesitated to write Angela Davis: An Autobriography. She wanted to make sure she captured the truepurpose of the Black Liberation Movement. She wanted people to know about people, places, and events that brought her to where she was. She joined the fight for equality in high school and before she knew it, she was another political prisoner whose name was on FBI’s most wanted list. She recounts her fear and explains how if one has a goal, fear is not an excuse.

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

 

~ Angela Davis

Assata Shakur (No, not Tupac’s Mother)

Assata: An Autobiography is on the same level as Malcolm X’s autobiography. Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party, was determined to right the wrongs she saw firsthand. She tells of how the police would commit murders and frame the Black Panther Party. In a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike, Shakur would experience injustice herself when she was framed fro shooting a white p

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.43.15 PM

olice officer. She was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list shortly after.

She writes of her troubled pregnancy, lack of medical attention, and being handcuffed to hospital beds as police officers tried to force her to confess. But nothing in the book compares to her telling of when her daughter visits her in jail. Her daughter was conceived during her trial and taken away from her. One day, her daughter visits her. As Shakur reaches out to embrace her child, her daughter begins screaming and beating her fists against her mother and screams, “I hate you!”

An innocent prisoner is one thing, but an innocent child who only sees her mother for minutes at a time – is unacceptable.

 Nelson Mandela

In A Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela fought for a multiracial government in South Africa. He spent thousands of days behind prison bars and became an elected leader of South African shortly after. After his recent death, his fight against oppression has proven impactful. Over 700 pages long, the book is written so concisely one can’t help but read every one.

 

                                                                 

A Dream Embraced

Eric Oko Dodoo, also known as Oko, is originally from Ghana West Africa. He moved to the United States at age 15 and has resided in the United States for about 13 years.

Growing up in a country with diverse cultures and music from every corner of the world, Oko was exposed to different types of sounds and genres that sparked his passion for creating music. Rnb legends such as R.kelly, Usher, and Boys II Men heavily influenced his music.

Oko, Singer/songwriter

Eric Oko Dodoo

“I know if I am going to do it, it’s now or never.” ~ Eric Oko Dodoo

Oko began to write and produce his own music with his Church Choir when he was only 14. As a true artist who knows a good sounds when he hears it, Oko has been molding and perfecting his sound to make his mark on today’s music Industry. He aims to not only create great music, but also to impact the world with his talents and gifts.

Oko is majoring in communication at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is working with a music company called Hitkey Entertainment. Hitkey stands behind their belief that “humility is the key” to success. Oko’s main motivation is his love for his craft. In a capitalistic society, it is hard to do anything for a purpose other than money. It is programmed in the human brain to work for profit and to work smart not hard. But creativity embraces the opposite concept. To work hard to create, and recreate, until a piece is molded to perfection.

Oko embraces that philosophy. He understands the word “artist” encompasses. Every day, he shapes himself into a cutting edge music creator.

How are you embracing your gifts? Let me know!

Your Valentine Should Rhyme

writer

 

I’m not talking about your gift. I’m talking about your date! Here are four reasons why you should date a poet:

1) Receive cute poems on your pillow

Poets are natural at what they do. They try to make everything in life poetic. Especially, their relationships. Being with a poet will be the most epic experience you ever encounter. Just when you think they can’t make life anymore interesting, BAM! You wake up to the neatest cursive script on crisp, antique paper. Each curve of the letter delving deeper into their love for you. No one can make you feel more courted than a person who rejects the idea that love is indescribable. Because a poet can articulate her love to a tee.

2) Don’t let the term “deep-thinker” fool you

Poets have to have a knack for detail. Their insights can be too in-depth for the analytical thinker. Because poets have sat back and observed their entire life, they are able to understand situations quickly. So, don’t be surprised when they show you their witty side. It’s not sarcasm. They are simply challenging you to some intellectual flirtation.

3) We all know clingy isn’t kinky

You need your space. And writer’s need it too. You will never have to worry about your poetic partner being too dependent. Don’t be surprised if they don’t come to bed at night as they force a poem out of their brains into that secret journal they never let you read. Try not to be offended if they spend more time with their notebooks and pens. The more time they spend writing, consider that the amount of time they spend thinking about you. You are most likely the inspiration for their words.

4)  Be understood for once

To be a writer, one must first be a reader. Readers have met more people than anyone else in the world. They have comforted the 12-year old girl who suffered abuse from her father. They have stood in the courtroom with convicted murderers. They have even traveled back in time and met dead presidents. Through stories, poets have witnessed situations they would have otherwise never understood. I’m sure they can handle whatever story you want to unfold.