A small but enthusiastic group of female poets gathered Saturday afternoon at North Austin Branch Library, 5600 W. North Ave., for its bi-monthly poetry slam. Ranging in age from 10 to 72 years, from the depths of their souls, the poets offered up melodic, spirit-filled prose and pearls of wisdom to the small but equally enthusiastic audience.
Most of these women are regulars and have been gathering at the North Austin Branch Library to share their verse for more than five years. The slam is sponsored by the Chicago Public Library and presented in the children’s section.
Poet Inez Davis brought along her two grandchildren and her electric piano, which she played while performing her original piece, “I Like My Life Free and Easy.”
Before beginning, she announced, “Don’t y’all laugh at me. I’ve never studied music formally; I just like to play around with it in my poetry.”
No one laughed, but thoroughly enjoyed the piece as apparent through the audience’s thunderous applause.
The real show stopper was first-timer Deajenea Daleney, a 10 year- old Ella Flag Young Elementary School student. She actually wrote two of her poems on the spot and delivered them with wisdom beyond her years.
“We make decisions in a second which last forever,” was the closing line of her poem on decisions. Jessica Dixon, 14, another EFY student, delivered an equally powerful poem about her sister.
Dee Ann Payne delivered two impromptu performance pieces. One, titled “I Am a Success,” was inspired because it’s Black History Month, said Payne, while “Free Your Mind,” came from listening to the other poets. With dramatic expressions, sweeping arm movements and true theatrical form, Payne captivated the audience with her gifted poetry.
Ida Barnes, at 72, is the elder of the group and one of the original participants. She presented a Valentine’s Day tribute to her special Valentine, Jesus Christ. Barnes said the poem came to her one Valentine’s Day when she was in the midst of a “pity party because I didn’t have any one to share Valentine’s Day with or any gifts. So I just took out some paper and began to write about my special Valentine who is always there.”
Barnes started writing poetry in her early sixties and recalls her first poem, “Ida, this is your body talking,” as a message to her and others to take care of their bodies. Barnes has published a book of poetry called Words of Wisdom which is a part of North Austin’s collection. The book also features poems by her great-granddaughter, granddaughter and three of grandsons.
Maria Spraggins, another regular, performed “Mother of Steel” a poem she wrote as a birthday gift and tribute to her mother. “My mother is a strong and supportive black woman in how she cares for my sisters and me”, Maria said. “She’s strong like Superman, the man of steel, well, she is the Mother of Steel.”
Zolanda West, a regular participant, presented her “Idea to Dream,” inspired by Dr. King’s legacy, and” Strong Black Woman,” a survival piece.
” I write poetry all the time,” West said, “What inspires me is being able to sit down at a piece of paper, and my thoughts just start rolling and my juices get creative.”
Doreen Ambrose Van Lee, one of the original poets, delivered three provocative pieces, one written in salute to Barack Obama’s election. Van Lee has been writing since she was in the 12th grade. She writes biographical and love poems. Van Lee said she was inspired by Lorraine Hansberry to write a book.
“She wrote a [play] called Raisin in the Sun, and I wrote a book called Raising a Son, Van Lee said. Her advice for young poets is “to write from your heart.”