Cue drum roll!

I am beyond ecstatic to announce that on Thursday, September 17th I will be releasing my debut poetry book, Falling in Love with Picking Myself up. I hope you will join me at Upstage in Charlotte, NC where I will be featuring and reading poems from the book thanks to Touch One Productions! More details are coming soon! For now, here’s a sneak peek at the cover!

Book-CoverFULL1

In April I participated in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) which is a challenge to write 30 poems within the 30 days of the month. This year was the first I ever completed the challenge (yay!!!). I didn’t wind up posting all of the poems on this blog but you can read the ones I did HERE for a limited time. Today I came across one of the poems that I feel with some editing could it could be pretty good. Thought I’d post it since it’s been a while.

Thrill of the Hunt

There’s something about
a smoky building filled
with writhing bodies
that puts me on
the prowl,
like any moment
I could find
someone
who will destroy
me in the most
honey of ways,
so I lean against
the bar, cold
beer in hand,
hunting
on a lonely
stomach.

A Conversation Starter about the Lack of Diversity in Young Adult Literature

I posted this on Facebook and I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts?

But can we talk about the lack of diversity in books for young adults? I swear that I have read hundreds and hundreds of books since elementary school because I adore reading (um, that BookIt program in elementary & middle school was giving us the pizza hook up which led to my beautiful relationship with reading) but of those hundreds of books that I have read I can probably count on one hand how many have been either written by black authors OR had a black main character. And I’m not talking about those “Paster needs a boo” type books either. I’m talking about legit books for teens that don’t involve a teenage pregnancy plot line or whatever passes as “marketable”. Most YA books by black authors that I have read are either super religious OR have a tendency to have extremely graphic sexual content OR takes place during the times of slavery.

So these are my questions:
1. Where are all the books about the kids who looked like me/acted like me/talked like me?
2. How can we go about creating a market for young adult books written by black authors who feature black characters?
3. Does this bother anyone else or is it just me?

NaPoWriMo Day 7! The Divinity of Spots

Happy NaPoWriMo! One whole week of writing poems every single day complete! Here is today’s poem:


The Divinity of Spots 

Mom, I can not figure out what the ladybugs mean.
The morning after you went into the hospital I noticed
them crawling on the blinds of my bedroom window,
the lamp shade, the basin of the bathroom sink,
the counter in the kitchen. I took their presence as
a sign, those mascots of luck, that you would be
healed. When you needed to have a machine push
the air into your rebellious lungs, I prayed to
the freckled wings of the ladybugs, making deities
of them, and they obliged. The last really good day
you sat up in the recliner reading the hospital lunch
menu, your glasses crooked, I thanked the divinity of
those spots for giving your body back. It took eleven
days for me to realize my mistake, the last five of
which I spent sleeping atop a yoga mat on the floor
of your hospice room. It was there, beside your bed,
where your son discovered a tiny feather, held it up,
pinched between two fingers, hoping for a miracle.
I, bitter from the betrayal of the ladybugs, told him
it was too small to belong to an angel. I think I was
trying to teach him what I had only just learned: that
you should not make a god out of every beautiful
thing that will let you pray to it. So mom, what does
it mean that it’s been nearly three months since your
passing and I am still finding shells of ladybugs at
the foot of my bed?

NaPoWriMo Day 6.5! My Ten Commandments

Alright, so it’s almost 4 a.m. and I just finished my 6/30 poem. This one took a lot of time because I wrote it twice. The prompt was from the National Poetry Month group that I’m a part of on Facebook. When I first decided to take this challenge I went about it in a very casual way, all my commandments were simple things like “write poems, run, read books”, pretty bad right? So I scratched that and decided to dig a little deeper and this is the end result.

My 10 Commandments

  1. Thou shalt not hide anymore empty wine bottles in trophy cases beneath the bed, at the bottom of the laundry hamper, tucked between the comforter and sheet. You have started to drink more than you feel these days. It is a lulling alternative. It keeps you from panicking about the way you’ve been craving more popped corks.
  2. Thou shalt not fuck him again. You always offer the whole of your supple body to He Who Only Wants A Soft Place To Hold His Hardness. Your body is more than a warm mouth meant to suck the salt from his flesh.
  3. Think of thy mother often. Remember that she taught you as a child how to make wishes on the wings of dandelions. Now, her memory is a garden of yellow, blossoming in your chest. 
  4. Let the secret of your sixteenth year be an ink spill. Graffiti his touch on every billboard in his city, tag his neighbors doors, the ceiling on his wife’s side of the bed. Do not strip the truth from the canvas of your flesh, it is an ugly work of art, but it is yours.
  5. Thou shalt no longer fear being loved and the way that means to be an open airway, drawing in that which will sustain this timid heart. You have been holding your breath since 2008. Breathe.
  6. Learn thy stretch marks. You have always taught the flesh on your body that it needs to be quieter, willed it to be more subtle, less fabric. This skin has wondered what a body that has never shaken a staircase or popped seams in a fitting room feels like. This body is heavy. This body has been waiting for you to be strong enough to carry its weight. This body says learn to love these god damn stretch marks. This body has learned to love its loud. This body is waiting for you to stop walking so softly.
  7. Thou shalt not feel like a whore for having casual sex. Be unashamed of the way your hips have been the slow curl of smoke rising from the flame of his, or her naked. You have given your moans and amens to tongues that have not loved more than the way you come for them. And oh, how you have loved nothing more than to show up.
  8. Try not to lose thy mind. At thirteen, a psychologist declared you clinically depressed. You have spent every year since, trying to flee from the thing that taught you how to run in the first place. You have been so scared of what happens to the mind when it tires of being normal. Do not waste anymore imagination on this. Stop running.
  9. Thou shalt not feel like less of a woman for not wanting to be a mother. It does not matter why you have made this decision. It is not a debate. You have made a choice that some may call selfish. Many will cluck their tongues at you, a reprimand, for not doing a woman’s work. You still vagina, still nurturer, still woman. Always woman.
  10. Thou shalt not exercise the right to remain silent. You have always kept your voice and opinions apart, afraid of the ruckus they’d create. Have been uneasy around conflict. You are finally understanding how to brave, how to say no, how to call an injustice by its name without a flinch. You have witnessed too many wailing mothers on the news to believe in silence. This is the part where you start voicing your opinions.

If you made it this far, yay! I know it’s a long one. Thanks for reading/listening! I can’t wait to come back and work on this poem once the month is done and I have more time to really dig into it!

NaPoWriMo Day 5! Look How Strong I Am

Whew, five days in and still churning out more poems! I hope you guys are enjoying this years national poetry writing month as much as I am. Today I wrote a poem based off of this prompt by Megan Falley. We were to convince someone to stay for whatever reason. I wasn’t sure what was going to come out of it since there isn’t currently someone in the process of leaving me right now. But as many of us surely has experienced, I went through a tough breakup in the past and I channeled those thoughts and emotions while writing this. I think that asking someone to stay/being asked to stay is a hard thing to deal with because eventually you realize it was for the best that you/they don’t. I hope you enjoy!

Look How Strong I Am

So my hands can stop shaking cracks into every glass I clutch.

So my bones will no longer offer themselves to the soil.

So the words please don’t go can stop tearing holes in my throat.

So I can stop feeling like I’m in a dream, falling from the cliff of your kiss.

So I can say I am yours, I am loved.

So my legs can hold a whole body again.

So these teeth can stop finding rubies in the pulp of my lips.

So your name won’t be a whip cracking against my spine.

So I can stop thinking of all the things you’ll confiscate when you go.

So I don’t have to take inventory of my laugh, my smile, how much trust is left.

So I don’t spend every day imagining the noises of a settling building is your return.

So I can stop writing the apologies you’d owe.

So I can sleep through the storms, so I can stop being the thunder, the lightning, the cold, cold rain.

So my heart can be a calmed sea, a safe place for us gill-less to travel.

So I can say look how we have survived! We were almost two lungs of salt but stayed afloat.

So you can say loving you is hard, but I’m a better person for not giving up. Look how strong I am.

Stay, so we can both say look how strong I am. Even though neither one of us will actually be telling the truth.

NaPoWriMo Day 4! With Our Teeth

Hey! Day four of #NaPoWriMo is here! I hope everyone is getting into the swing of sitting down and writing daily. Today’s poem was inspired by this prompt by Sam Gordon plus an experience I had the other day. I was in Target browsing the book section, which is always one of my favorite things to do. I was looking at all the different books enjoying how wide the variety was until I got to the “African American” section. All the books were ridiculous, with titles like Pastor Needs a Boo and Project Chick. It got me to thinking about the lack of flexibility within African American books available to the mainstream.

With Our Teeth

Who sets the standards?

Says your dark is why.
Your night sky skin is the only reason.

Yesterday I spent time with the shelves
and the books they keep,

spines standing up straight
and proud of their bodies—

adventure, action, romance, coming
of age, I reveled in all those choices.

The black books slouched,
heavy with the burden of being token,

of being cliche, a heart of ghettos
a calloused mouth,

the black books had black titles
like Honor Thy Thug and black

women in lingerie and black men
in sagging pants and isn’t that

exactly what being black has become?
Playing into a role, digging

rivers into our tongues with
our teeth, swimming in stereotypes

to avoid drowning. Isn’t that
what they expect, those standard

setters? Those cage architects,
they say here, take this and be grateful,

look at all the space we’ve given you,
you have your very own shelf in our world.

And we buy it because it is ours, it is
all we’ve been given, we invest in it,

take note of what they expect us to be
and we do better, be more, set our

own standards, let them think they
have won, while we build our own

shelves, fill them with the truths too
honest for their world. Say to them,

look at all the space we’ve let you
think was yours. Be grateful.

NaPoWriMo day 3! The Saccharine

Hi guys! Hope everyone is still going strong with NaPoWriMo if you’re participating. Today I decided to write a poem about my mom who passed away a few months ago. The problem with writing about someone who has recently died is that you typically tend to write poems only about the fact that they just died (at least that is my experience). So here is what I came up with:

The Saccharine

Every time I write poems
with you as a muse, they
wind up not being about you.

I write about cigarettes,
schizophrenia
and fever,

or the tumor I couldn’t avert my
gaze from quick enough—a
mass of execution.

Everything else though,
the things that made you,
come with an epitaph,

a ceremony of eulogies, the
memories of you are an arrangement
of funeral flowers I don’t

know how to care for properly,
I pretend they are not
drying out in the other room.

Your Gone is so much easier
to write about than your Here,
the bitter of hurt pours out first,

the you I want to write about
has settled, like sugar at
the bottom of an unstirred pitcher,

I like to keep you-I-can-write-about
and you-I-can’t separate, hoping
to swallow the whole lot of bitter

until what’s left is the saccharine, that
remembering you, all jolly ranchers,
and gummy smiles is the only way.

NaPoWriMo Day 2! Zoo of the Unwritten

Hi there! It’s day two and I’m still going strong. Today’s poem was inspired by this prompt by Megan Falley. This wasn’t as hard as I initially thought it would be to write. My most significant break from writing took place during my most adult relationship. I still have questions to ask myself about this topic but for now this is what we have to work with:

Zoo of the Unwritten

When I wasn’t writing,
I was limbs wrapped
up in his sheets,

all my words caged,
my throat a zoo of
the unwritten.

Love was not a spark,
not a forest floor
of poems on fire.

When asked have you
ever been in love?
I pause.

If this thing, that grabs you
by the heart and spins you
until all the world multi-colored

swirls, is supposed to inspire,
then why did I stare at so many
unmarked pages?

Why did i not poet?
Or artist?
Or create?

I want to say, yes
I have been in love
and it was extraordinary,

I wrote ten books worth
of poems about how
marvelous it all was,

I was the poet laureate
of love, I was the one
they teach you about

in sadity writing courses at
the university where I could never
afford more than one semester.

Instead I pause. Shrug.
Say I don’t know. I think so?
I mean I loved him, but…

Happy NaPoWriMo!

Hi guys! It’s been a LONG time since I’ve posted one of my poems here. That’s because I’ve been working hard on finishing my poetry book. It’s almost done so I figured I’d take a small break and participate in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month, for those outside of the loop). I’ll try my best to post daily but being an adult means life gets hectic sometimes, you know how it is!

This poem was inspired from a quote by Assata Shakur I came across on tumblr, “We’re taught at such an early age to be against the communists, yet most of us don’t have the faintest idea what communism is. Only a fool lets somebody else tell him who his enemy is.” The poem in general has nothing to do with communism but more-so the idea of the things I don’t know. The things that have yet to be discovered by me and the urge to change that in all aspects. I think it’s easy to listen to other people’s view of the world and all it contains but it’s better to experience and learn for yourself. So without further ado:

Wider than a Big Bang

This world is filled with gifts,
much granite unturned,
many undiscovered roads.

I want to cross bridges,
duck under low hanging branches,
slosh through rivers bare knee’d,

unafraid of the little things,
or the big ones,
or of anything in between.

To glimpse a turnoff and take it
not caring where it leads,
as long as it goes.

Lounging at the edge of any shore as the waves kiss me,
sprawled among prickly blades of grass while the stars kiss me,
to be in his arms or hers kissing them back when they kiss me.

To go… To do… To to.

Breathing carefree and exuberant,
following whim,
leading with moxy.

Not giving a fuck,
not being afraid to say fuck,
not fucking caring about fucking offending any-fucking-one.

Being over the moon,
with a laugh brighter than venus,
smiling unapologetically wider than a big bang.

For me
to live
a life that has loved living.

For me
to love
a life that is lived loving me.

Thanks for stopping by! If you are participating in NaPoWriMo as well feel free to leave your link when you comment so I can check your work out!

Follow me on twitter @talichaj

Book update: Looking for Beta Readers!

I just wanted to share with you guys that I am beyond excited about my upcoming poetry book! It’s still untitled (if you’ve followed me for a while you know at one point it was titled In the Making but I’m still deciding). It’s still missing a couple of poems but it is so close to the finish line. I have never been more proud of myself as I am with this endeavor. I truly believe in each of the poems that have made the cut. This is my most honest writing and it is kind of scary to think of so many personal moments printed for anyone to read. But I am ready.

I am aiming for an end of summer or early fall release. Things are on track for either at this point. More details to come, keep up here or follow me on twitter @talichaj or on Facebook Talicha J. for updates!

If anyone is interested in being a beta reader please send an email to talichaj@gmail.com

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day one of my favorite poets, Sarah Kay, shared her poem This Type on her Facebook page. It’s a wonderful poem and I even used the last line as a writing prompt for FWF a couple of years ago. I want to pass this along to you guys because I think it is powerful. Please enjoy and don’t forget to share and go let the poet know how awesome you think her work is!

Awesome right? You can follow Sarah at:
Facebook: Sarah Kay
Twitter: kaysarahsera

If you wanted to read the (really bad) poem I wrote after reading this awesome one by Sarah you can read it here: Born To

Poetry Spotlight! Lydia Havens

Welcome to Poetry Spotlight! Today I want to share two beautiful poems by the ever-so-talented Lydia Havens. First up, My Lover Is The Sunlight, is a magnetic read. I think this poem is honest and brave and breathtaking. With lines like “We have hearts that are cracking whips across our insides” this poem is a powerhouse.

Read My Lover Is The Sunlight

Next up is Prayer to Dymphna, Patron Saint of the Mentally Ill. This poem leaves me feeling raw. Lydia writes: “Don’t let my body become another ripped up doctor’s note.” Come on! This poet is one to keep an eye on!

Read Prayer to Dymphna, Patron Saint of the Mentally Ill

They were awesome right? Be sure to let Lydia know just how much you appreciate her work:
Tumblr: http://southwestwitch.tumblr.com/
Twitter: @lydiastormborn

Poetry Showcase! Beck Cooper

Welcome to Poetry Spotlight! I wanted to share a poem by the talented Beck Cooper with you guys today. I got the chance to get to know Beck a little bit at a national poetry competition last year and not only is she an awesome poet, she’s incredibly sweet and funny and she made me feel like a part of the group. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this video if you pay attention to my other social media sites because I KNOW I posted it, BUT in case you missed it I wanted to make sure that everyone has a chance to hear Too Big.

This is a poem that a lot people can relate too, I know it speaks to me a LOT. I have had many thoughts like the ones that she shares in this piece. I love the power behind Beck’s words especially when she is telling herself to be her own best friend. I think too often we get caught up in our insecurities and forget to be our own support systems. I hope you enjoy!

If you enjoyed this be sure to like the video which was provided to bestow upon us the brilliance of poets like Beck by the amazing Button Poetry.

Also follow Beck: WrittenByBeck (you can purchase her chapbook, Man The Harpoons! It’s awesome!)

This Grammys moment was so amazing I actually had to blog about it!

My favorite moment of The Grammy’s last night (and pretty much the only thing I didn’t fast forward through during the whole show) was the Chandelier performance by Sia. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Sia- I have ever since the moment I first heard Breathe Me from her third album ten or eleven years ago, but Kristen and Maddie are what made this performance breathtaking. The way they throw themselves into this whole production is what makes me appreciate artistic freedom.

km

Of course, I knew Maddie would kill it because that kid is phenomenal but Kristen was a huge surprise. It’s not that doubted her ability to portray such a serious character (while dancing at that!), I just hadn’t expected her to be so intriguing with it, so invested in this kind of character. (I know, shame on me for putting her in a comedic box, I don’t like to underestimate people so I’m not sure why I did so for her).

throw

I needed to watch every facial expression, every change in mood and every act of embracing or rejecting that change. I can’t describe in one word the feeling I had while viewing this for the first time but my chest was tight, my jaw was clenched, and I was hanging onto every movement. When Kristen mouths “I’m sorry”, man that gets me every time! To be aware that you are in an unsafe space, that you are doing something to yourself that is harmful, and to be willing to own it is hard. It’s even harder to apologize to yourself and to those around you for doing something against your best interest, so I found that moment really drawing me in.

sorry

I don’t think this video should be watched just once, I think to fully grasp the complexity of emotion and expression you have to really look. It’s there and it’s raw and beautiful. I think Sia’s videos and live performances do a good job of starting a conversation on the subject of mental health (especially since this song deals with the topic of her past history with alcoholism). She invites us into the chaos that is her mind–that is the mind of many others out there. A lot of times dealing with emotions can be overwhelming, just like the pace of this video can be. You don’t know where to focus and even how to focus on one thought or feeling. I think the best thing is to take a deep breath and spend time exploring (although everyone is different so there may be more to it for some).

Enough rambling on from me. Watch, discuss, share and I hope you enjoy the video. Try to go in with an open mind!