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With Davida Adedjouma

Editor: The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children
Contributing Poet: In Daddy's Arms I am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

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"...after writing & writing & revising then...writing, again, there comes that special moment when the sound & rhythm & texture of words become uniquely yours. your VOICE. which is different than his/hers/mine. it is my goal as an artist to help students seize a living language that enables them to tell their stories in their own way." from The Palm of My Heart

I began my writing career at eight years old. As a poet, Gwendolyn Brooks used to visit my elementary school and talk to us–a "real" poet talking to us!–about poetry. She'd read her work, and then explain how the words came to be. So I began to write four-line, rhymed verse.

But the first poem that really touched me inside, that made me shake and shimmer, was Nikki Giovanni's Peace Be Still. I'd read Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgment. Then I found out that Nikki–I'd taken to calling her by her first name, that's how close I felt to her words–had recorded the poem, on an LP, accompanied by the New York Community Choir. Poetry and music in one, as one! I was thrilled; and went around speak/singing that poem for months: peace, be still! Peace, be still!

I started writing pages-long, highly-syncopated, black nationalistic poetry. Right on, right on! Power to the people, especially women-people poetry. But the poems became so long, that the switch to fiction and playwriting was a natural progression. While I could express outbursts of emotion through poetry, I found that it was more natural for me to truly express myself through short stories and plays. Each form just allows me more room in which to work.

It is my early exposure to the combination of words and music that lead me to teach children creative writing using these combined mediums. In order to create new worlds through words, one needs not only a sense of wonder and storying, but the tools with which to communicate those visions to others. I have found that using an interdisciplinary approach to creative writing, one that includes dance, collage, and visualization exercises, not only frees up students' imaginations, but encourages each of them to stretch beyond their self-imposed limitations.

Learn more about
The Palm of My Heart
In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall

BookTalk with R. Gregory Christie on The Palm of my Heart


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