Writing As Mediation
Writing is my morning meditation. I sometimes have an idea for a poem or a song while I’m still in the bed. When I get up and go to my desk, I start developing that idea on paper. I usually do this with a pen. I feel I have to write everything down before I can type it. When I’m typing it I find myself editing at the same time. I seem to do my best writing in the morning. As a child growing up, I was made to get up at the break of dawn. My father had chores for me to do before I went to school. I don’t have those chores any more, but because of earlier training I still wake up very early. I guess you can say I’ve substituted chores for writing. My morning writings help me organize my day and do a little self-inventory. My study where I write is facing the East. I have a wonderful view of Harlem and the park from my window. The park is directly across the street from me and Harlem is a little beyond that. This view serves as a great inspiration and motivation to write. I find a lot of comfort in writing. For some reason I think I’m having a conversation with God.
Branches of The Tree of Life was my first official publication. Some years ago I was working for an Upward Bound program. The participants were high school students with aspirations to go to college. I loved my job very much primarily because of love children. I would write songs and poems for the youth and I would share my work with the staff as well. When the program was on the brink of being closed, my co-workers gave me a chapbook of my poetry they had collected over the five years we had worked together. I was totally shocked by their gift. The book was entitled Rooted in the Soil. I had hundreds of copies printed up and gave some to family and friends. Because I am a performance poet, I would also have copies for sale .
Sometime later I was approached by Gabrielle David. I first met her as a poet and when I appeared on phatLiterature, of which she was a co-host. She was now the publisher of 2Leaf Press and expressed interest in publishing a book of my poetry. She made it perfectly clear she wanted to publish poetry I was known for from my group The Last Poets as well as other poems that I had written. Gabrielle does not do slipshod work. She is very thorough. All of her work is exemplary. She introduced me to filmmaker and photographer Vagabond, who took a lot of great pictures of which one was used for the cover of the book. This was a much bigger project than I realized, but I appreciated the result of all the hard work, and I am proud to be one of her writers.
One of the outstanding points in Branches is that Gabrielle sectioned off poems based on their themes. The first section was called "Rooted in the Soil," the second was "Seeds of Change." The third section was "Branching Out." The fourth section was "The Healing Shadow of the Tree," and the last was "Returning to the Roots." I loved the organization and the layout. Another feature that intrigued me was the various quotes dealing with the same subject that Gabrielle had researched from other writers. All and all it’s a two hundred and forty page book of poems with a preface and introduction that many people have given special praise to. I recall when I gave my mother a copy. She held it like it was a bible then smiling she said “This book will be here long after you’re gone.”
Black Lives Have Always Mattered was my first attempt at being an editor. When the book was finally finished I promised myself I would never edit another book. Editing is a tedious job. Every day for over a month I would wake up and read manuscripts, poems and stories to decide if it was good enough to be in the anthology. I had to create a system to determine who was out and who was in. Since I am a teacher and teaching is truly one of my passions I decided that if the composition did not teach it would not be accepted. This was not an easy assignment. Out of over four hundred entries eighty-two writers were accepted. I was very pleased with the end product, but I would not desire a repeat performance.
The next book was essays and short stories entitled The Beauty of Being. My lady Judy and I did a lot of traveling. We liked to travel together and we both loved sun, sand and sea. Ever excursion was it’s own story, and there would inevitably be some conflict that would have to be resolved. So The Beauty of Being takes the reader on trips all over the world. The book is almost like a travelogue with stories to whet your appetite.
My fourth book under 2Leaf Press is what I would consider a pure book of poetry, Naked, A New Poetry Collection, set to publish October 2020. Poetry has always been an art form that was personal. My earlier poetry reflected the time. There was a Black Power movement going on and my poetry mirrored that. Over the years, I have written a lot of poems that encourage unity, pride and love for ourselves during turbulent times. I have poems about our history and how we as a people have affected the world. Naked is a book of poetry that comes from within. It speaks directly to the soul of each of us, our strengths, weaknesses, disappointments and joys.
This book does what poetry usually does. It peels off the skin and gives the reader a raw look at the flesh of humanity. I think the most compelling fact is it’s so personal. What is most personal is also most universal. Naked reveals this truth. It was a special blessing to have bestselling author and TV producer Miss Lyah LeFlore write the introduction. She is the daughter of 2Leaf Press’s poet, St. Louis Poet Laureate Emeritus Shirley Bradley LeFlore, who made her transition in 2019. Lyah is working hard to keep her mother’s legacy alive. She expressed to me how much reading my work helped her heal during this period of mourning. And in the midst of the one year anniversary of the loss of her mother, she wrote one of the best introductions I have ever read. Outrageous! Lyah's contribution is the cherry on top of the cake.
Gabrielle knows how to get things done as well as putting the right elements together. Each publication that I have done under 2Leaf Press under her supervision has been something that I will always treasure and be extremely grateful.