Category Archives: poetry

Inspired

We had a lot of fun with our last pot-luck poem and, to our surprise, Maria Shriver (who turns out to be a poetry fanatic) even posted a link to our video on her Twitter page and called it “powerful.” Some of you wanted us to organize this again, so the virtual poetry is back!

Add your line to our collective poem, given the theme of inspiration, by posting a word, phrase, or lines (please do not exceed 3 lines) below as a comment reply to this post.

As with last time, we’ll compile all the lines into one piece and post it next week. And, as you requested, poet Tiffany Okafor will be back to read the piece in an accompanying video.

So, tell us about inspiration…

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Poetry is Not a Luxury: A Conversation with Tara Betts

Tara Betts’ career, writings and experiences show that art serves an important social purpose and, simply, some people were put on this earth to write and help others develop their creative voices.

Tara has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and the Black Family Channel series Spoken with host Jessica Care Moore. After winning Guild Complex’s Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, she represented Chicago twice at the National Poetry Slam. She has performed in Cuba, London, throughout the Midwest, the East and West Coasts, and the South. In addition to all this, Tara has coached and mentored countless young writers and performers that have participated in Brave New Voices and the Louder Than a Bomb teen poetry slams.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to have a discussion with her on creative inspiration, the importance of poetry, her new book Arc and Hue and, of course, what it means to live unchained.

What sparked your interest in poetry?

My interest stemmed from my love of reading, and it also came from the music that I enjoyed. I loved MC Lyte, KRS-One, Public Enemy, and the Native Tongues crew, but I also loved U2 and The Cure. I felt like lyrics moved me and inspired me, almost as much as my trips to the library, where I eventually held my first job and snuck around reading in the stacks. I also dabbled in classical music like Bolero, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky.

I just wanted to soak up anything that fed burgeoning images that would emerge in my head. Of course, poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ntozake Shange, and the anthology The Black Poets edited by Dudley Randall really inspired me.

From what sources do you gather inspiration?

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Share some love, win a t-shirt (Especially for the Audre Lorde Fans)

We decided to make a couple t-shirts (the “t” stands for tribute) in honor of Audre Lorde. Support Live Unchained by purchasing one of the shirts below from the Live Unchained store.

You can also tell us what Live Unchained means to you and win a t-shirt. Simply respond to this post with a comment below explaining what living unchained means to you. In honor of National Poetry Month, this can take the form of a short paragraph (3 or more sentences), haiku or short poem.

Quote on back: I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.



Quote on back: When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

Audre Lorde knew how to Live Unchained–what does it mean to you?

Write your paragraphs, haiku and poems below and we’ll select a winner to receive a shirt. We’ll make the announcement on Tuesday, May 4th. If you know you are going to win, support black business and buy one for a loved one just because…

Poets Are Leaders

I guess it’s funny that I feel more comfortable calling myself a leader than an artist. I came across this poem by Maya Angelou and realized that you can’t be a poet without being a leader.

A Conceit

Give me your hand

Make room for me
to lead and follow
you
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.

For me
Give me your hand.

Perhaps it does take a bit of conceit to think your experiences, dreams and passions could be instructive to someone else. Of course, many of us may not intend to lead with our works. We create because something in us needs freedom and form. We know if we tried to contain it, we would implode. Still, our work takes people on a journey that they wouldn’t have taken or even known about if we had not used those words, colors or sounds. Obvious politics or not, art is leadership. It can take us to scary places within ourselves or drag us out into the sunshine.

Our personal creations are the evidence of our courage and unity. It is always a risk to write, but the fact that it may be received by someone on a similar journey makes it worthwhile.

Warrior poet Audre Lorde once said:

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

I was recently speaking with some friends about why we do not share certain creative pieces with people. I wish I had mentioned Audre Lorde then. She makes my voice move when it needs to and motivated me to share the piece below. This poem came about after I received a big career opportunity based on my performance, but still felt like a little girl scared to show her face.

Then

When I have nothing
to prove.

When I have nothing
to hide.

Then,
I will be free.

Toni Cade Bambara tells us,  “The job of the writer is to make the revolution irresistible.”  She also explains, “Revolution begins with the self, in the self.”

Which poets lead you? Where do they lead you? Do they make change irresistible?

A Taste of Freedom, A Taste of Love–This poem is yours!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our potluck poem. We are so grateful and so full. Everyone’s words on freedom were inspiring and made us proud to be a part of Live Unchained.

We are also happy that some of you were motivated to share more than the 1 to 2 lines we suggested. Unfortunately, we couldn’t include every word from you free spirits that could not contain your thoughts. Some edits were made here and there to the longer contributions to unify and tighten the piece.

We also want to shout out Farai Chideya and Pete Chatmon for their lines. Their words, like all of yours, were encouraging and meaningful. If there are any talented people that you admire, it is worth it to reach out to them–they just might respond and be happy to do so.

The incredible poet and model, Tiffany Okafor, read the poem for us. See her performance below. You can also download the full poem here: Live Unchained Poem 3-9-10

Don’t forget about our poetry contest. Contact us for more details.

“A Taste of Freedom, A Taste of Love.”

I will speak.

I will listen.

I will move as if it was written.

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Spare a line?

Because our two favorite “ivities” are collectivity and creativity, we wanted to invite you to a special gathering…

A potluck poem is a poem that is created collectively by a group of people who take turns sharing words. We would be so honored to have you join us by sparing a line or two and posting it in the comments section below this post as Miriam and I have.

The theme is freedom–so share whatever line you think speaks to this. Most importantly, you should feel free when you write. Don’t worry about what someone else wrote or think too much about what you should say–just share and we will love you. =)

We will post the poem, in its entirety, on Monday, March 8th as one document to be downloaded from this site. The final collective piece will be read and recorded by one of our contributors and posted as a video blog the following week.

Happy writing!

The next part is a creative opportunity for our contributors with a poetic spirit and access to YouTube or Vimeo. Learn more at our contests page.