Introducing Our Grand Prize Winner
Please, tell us what inspired your poem.
I saw the competition pop up on my IG thread, and the theme of love caught my eye immediately. Being that I am a woman known for always speaking about love and pride myself in how I love people, there was no question on whether I would enter the poetry contest. In addition, I had already written a poem on love and initially submitted that poem because I was not sure if I would have enough time to create a new poem. However, after submitting my first poem, I read how participants could submit two poems and the challenge to us poets to look beyond the normal description of love we often see in poetry. This forced me to visualize all the different perspectives of love.
I love it. What do you love most about poetry?
I love that poetry takes on a life of its own. It can be a song, a narrative, a teacher, a friend, a love letter, a movement, etc. It has its own language to the reader because poetry is personal. It not only speaks to us, but it has the power to move us individually in various ways as if it knows each of us intimately. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does! How did you get started writing?
I started writing when I was very young- it was my escape, and writing was my voice. Although I was outgoing and never had a problem with talking, I struggled with my identity (being understood), so my journals were the only place where I could be myself. I loved how words had the ability to say what I wanted to express vocally. In short, when I wrote, I was free to be me, raw and unapologetic.
You are an author. What has that journey been like for you?
I have to say exciting! I love to hear how something I wrote transformed or inspired someone, which is mostly the core of my writing. But it is also hard because if you are not an established author, it is hard to get your work out there when you are self-published. I had to decide to enjoy the journey no matter what, but your greatest desire is for your work to be read as an author—the journey itself has also been an adventurous teacher. There have been many doors of opportunities that opened for me that I never imagined. For example, my book has been used as a resource in a business. I also use my book as a resource in my work as an encouragement coach, not to mention the speaking opportunities.
You are doing such excellent work. I love it.
As I mentioned earlier, you challenged me. That challenge forced me to look inwardly beyond the “emotion of love” beyond “conceptualizing love,” and I was able to see love in ways that superseded my surface emotions and mental awareness. Realizing that love has always been present, but we are often unaware of its presence. I can admit, I didn’t recognize or appreciate it when I was younger because I allowed others to define love for me.
So, I wanted to give tribute to that type of love and the givers of such love. When they gave, they gave all they had. So as the memories washed over me, I began to write, and it flowed from my being. I saw faces- my mother, grandmother, neighbors, friends. I saw our ancestors, their scarred backs, and forgotten history. When I finished, there was joy and sadness within my heart, and I was proud and, without a second thought, submitted it. It deserved to be read even if I didn’t win. I wrote this poem quickly as the memories washed over me.
That’s beautiful and I can tell you put a lot of thought behind your poem. It’s deep and relatable. I felt right away how set-apart your poem was from the beginning.
What would you say is your writing strength and weakness?
My strength is that I can create a piece quickly. If I am passionate about a topic, the creativity flows. I also love taking chances as a writer, even if I am uncertain if I can write about a particular topic or theme. I put myself out there! I believe it is because I know myself, so I am no longer writing to be affirmed as a writer. I fell in love with my voice, whether written or verbal.
Wait a minute. Sis said, “I know myself, so I am no longer writing to be affirmed as a writer.” That’s a bar.
Okay, go on, lol.
My weakness. Wow, there are two that come to mind. The short one is learning to get out of my head to fully unlock the untapped potential and creativity that I know I have. My second weakness is more of a past weakness, which is fear because it hindered my writing for so long.
I love it! And I think it’s what sets you apart. Are you working on any writing projects/books?
I am currently a full-time student, so I only take on small writing projects for people, such as writing personalized poetry pieces or short stories for birthdays, events, or special projects.
Oh, that’s cool!
I have more books in me, but I am trying to get through these last two years of schooling. I recently, right before school started, for the first time, had the opportunity to work on a script project for a short series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. There are still more episodes to be written, and I hope I have the time to be on the rest of the project. I will say this, scriptwriting gave me a new desire to write a fictional book and maybe dabble even more into scriptwriting for films.
Yes! I see it.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
On my last year of college, celebrating being a writer on the series project I mentioned earlier and seeing it on Netflix or Hulu. My book being not only in other states but other countries and being a best seller. I want to impact more lives through my encouragement, coaching, and writings, and I expect more unexpected opportunities that blow my mind! I am also a huge supporter, so I want to be in a position to help beginner writers in whatever way I can.
That all sounds amazing and I pray you go as far as you are destined to.
And without further ado, I introduce to you “Love Is,” by Tiffany James
Love is distinctively woven into the fabric of our being
experienced through the ordinary each day
a silent wave of an old memory washing over us; a segue to our humanity.
Love is home, love is grandma’s baby
love is survival and hustling;
cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, changing diapers, washing clothes by hand, and layaway plans.
Love is spiritual; a scared village, the spirit’s libation, broken history, and love is migration love is food stamps, government cheese, grits with sugar, and collard greens
love is the sand between my toes.
Love is the prize at the bottom of the crackerjack box, love is hopscotch, and double-dutch love is afro-puffs, two French braids and your first French kiss
love is overtime, colored easter eggs, Santa Claus tales, and hand-me-downs.
Love is that switch from the tree, love is praying hands and bended knees
love is loud, silent, large, small, and intriguingly complex —Love is Proud
love is scarred backs and stubborn roots —old hymns and sung negro spirituals.
Love is “I told you so”
love is easy like Sunday morning
love is Betty Wright, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Patti LaBelle;
a brilliant collaboration of lyrical hands fighting for the same devotion because love is Soul Train.
Love is rich soil to the soul
love is fearless laughter, getting up at 6am, sleepless nights, untold stories and second chances love is the ancestors’ wisdom —the great orator and the greatest debater.
Love is underestimated, yet chosen
love is fierce; righteously angry, patient, and sacrificial — it is the caged bird singing love is the paint, painter, and work of art.
Love is a savior —the hero’s journey
Love is amazing grace
Love is wealth, life, and death.
Love is not weak; it bows down to no one yet surrenders itself to everyone by its own authority — love is badass. Every time I close my eyes, I witness love.
Love is distinctively woven into the fabric of our being.
experienced through the ordinary each day
© by Tiffany James 2021
Today wraps up our poet spotlight for the 4th Annual Poetry Contest. I want to thank everyone who has participated and supported our poets this year. If you want to help coordinate or sponsor next year’s contest, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hosting these contests, but I can’t do it without your help.