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Women’s History Month/Inaugural Poet 2021 Amanda Gorman/What Poetry Brings By Semaj Brown

Poetry Confessions: Tea Time with Flint’s First Poet Laureate, Semaj Brown

(editor: Tanya Terry)

Dear Beautiful People:

Sunny and warm, a perfect day for a cup of peach tea! The aroma heightens my senses. I am ready to spy on what our futures could unfold. I see break dancing rainbows abandoning the arch for more committed geometry. That’s right, no more bows. What will we call this new configuration of prismed light? I will call it poetry! Poetry allows us to stretch color paper thin, wrap ourselves in translucent longing and become a wish manifest.

My good friend Denise was inspired to see how supportive I was of the Inaugural Poet, Amanda Gorman. I responded, OF COURSE! She is my Sister Poet and I am so proud of her!

She was called, in the name of Poetry to lift our nation and the world. Her magnificent delivery might just usher in a cultural revolution. This is a time of great shifting and transition.

During this historical magical Women’s History moment, there are waves, rising and receding, old paradigms, practices are being put out to sea, and new ideas march on top of the water. I envision people reading poetry, and writing poetry, and speaking poetry, and thinking in poetry, musing in expanded ways, and giving pause— struggling to explain, to see.

What if, we as a culture, transcended and transitioned toward grace? What would that look like? Is “Grace” an elusive bell ringing a far away tone, barely audible in the faded landscape? Or is “Grace” your sister carrying an upside down umbrella made of weaved knowing with you curled inside to get you across?

What if metaphor becomes our muse? It is transformative brush stroke communication. Poetry opens what is hidden, pours it up. Instead of writing, her heart was like the ocean, we might say in conversation, her heart was the ocean, or even, her heart was ocean. These subtle differences speak to identity, rather than, what we identify with.

Too often I am reminded crass culture is in need of refinement. Refinement is to make pure, become the essence. Americans are victims of the worst in popular culture, operating on the base lowest level, reinforced by greedy factories of dehumanization. In poetry, celebrity is word aching in the wind, ascribed onto parchment screens in rhythm and rhyme. Poetry is not the answer; it is the question. Competition is counter to its core. I know what men and institutions have turned it into, a market place of book awards and Slam winners, but it is NOT that. No. Being a Poet is Soul Work.

To the teachers who toil this craft, who bleed promise of literacy, literature, who instill and install their all to ensure our children will grow with the consciousness of a poem, who travel the continent with youth teams as I did, who work when the only blessed compensation was growing the spirit of a child, who use poetry as a precious power tool to protect, and save and build. I salute you forever!

Poetry changes the view. Gray becomes slate with hint of lavender. And love, well, love becomes whatever your imagination summons and more.

Semaj Brown is Flint’s first poet laureate and the writer of this poem

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