Category Archives: Writing

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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Nigeria’s Muse: Interview with Author and Professor Nnedi Okorafor

Originally from Nigeria, author Nnedimma (Nnedi) Okorafor, returns frequently; In her books she often brings her readers along the journey. Nnedi writes science fiction and fantasy novels, often exploring the hero’s experience from a young female’s perspective. Everything comes to life in her work–the trees, creatures and even the ground are animated in her stories.

In this interview, Nnedi shares her thoughts on how Nigeria influences her work, explains her thoughts on the business of writing, offers advice to aspiring authors, and shares what living unchained means to her.

You say Nigeria is your muse. How does Nigeria inspire you?

It’s not something I can really put words to. My parents have been taking me to Nigeria since I was a kid. It’s where some of the funniest, craziest, weirdest, scariest, happiest moments of my life have taken place. It’s where most of my relatives are. It’s where I’ve seen the coolest creatures.

It’s the place of the stories my parents and oldest relatives have told me. And I can’t name any books that contain the stories about Nigeria that reflect the ones in my head. That particular part of the earth speaks to me.

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Calling All Journalists…Creative Opportunity!

Hello journalists, newsies and information lovers! Enter the International Center for Journalists’ (ICFJ) competition to win a Flip Cam and share your opinion with the committee and followers of ICFJ. Submit a video in any language (if not in English, you’ll need subtitles) that shows why you think quality journalism matters. You have creative license to submit whatever you want–a song, music video, poem, etc. I suggest you Live Unchained, plan and bring it!