3 Poetry Lessons from Amanda and Angelou

Lesson #1: Study

Amanda Gorman, 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at sixteen years old in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. On Wednesday, she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following Maya Angelou and Robert Frost’s considerably more experienced footsteps. (Los Angeles Times)

Random fun fact: Amanda is a twin!

In her CNN interview with Anderson, Gorman spoke about the power of words and all the research that went into her poem, such as reviewing texts from poets of previous inaugurations and studying other orators like Frederick Douglass.

“I did a lot of research ever since I found out I was going to be the inaugural poet in late December. Really doing a deep literature dive of other orators.”

I highlight this because research is not a word we hear often associated with poetry, but the best poets do it. It is not only about stringing some rhymes together. The best poets are avid researchers, readers, and students.

While writing “The Hill We Climb,” the poet listened to music that helped put her “in a historic and epic mind-set,” including soundtracks from “The Crown,” “Lincoln,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hamilton.”

“I wasn’t trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know,” said Gorman of the events of January 6th. “America is messy. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it.”

I think we can all agree that Maya Angelou had talent, but Angelou also studied the art. In her muteness, she listened to how people spoke, the inflection of their voices, the way their arms and hands moved. She listened to the black ministers and the melody of the preachers, musicians, and performers. She read books of all kinds, traveled to different countries, and learned other languages.

What is the lesson here?

Good poetry is a good study. It is more than the rhyme of a creative mind, but how that creativity can take elements of real life, history, and experience and weave it together with language that is so fluid and precise that it enters the heart and goes right down to the soul.

Lesson #2: When You Are Not Writing/Speaking, Read

In the five years, Angelou was mute, she read every book in the black school library and every book she could get from the white school library. She memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Lawerence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. She memorized Shakespear, whole plays, and fifty sonnets. Angelou memorized Edgar Allen Poe and all the poetry.

When Angelou decided to speak, she had a lot to say and many ways to say it.

Gorman is also a reader.

“When she’s not watching cooking shows, Gorman copes with isolation by reading books to prepare her for that future. She picked up former President Obama’s “A Promised Land” the day it came out. She’s also reading Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History,” which interrogates long-standing historical narratives from the Haitian Revolution to the Alamo.”

Lesson #3: Learning from Others

I am not going to say that I agree with every lyric of Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.” Still, I enjoyed the intelligence of the delivery, the poetic techniques used, the alliteration, and the metaphoric skill. I have listened to other poems of Amanda’s, and I love the sound of her voice and the movement of her hands at pivotal points. It is not overly dramatic but poised and elegant.

At the Roar, Grand Slam Gorman said, “The air smelled of Hollywood and desperation.” Gorman’s enunciation of words and clarity of speech speaks to her comprehension of the information. Rather from her speech impediment or the love of poetry, you can tell that Gorman has studied language, and it comes through beautifully in her speech.

Maya Angelou has one of the most powerful voices I had ever heard. We are so blessed that she did not stay silent! What I noticed about Angelou was how she did not limit her reading. Maya embraced different voices and cultures, and I believe this nurtured her perspective so that it stretched wide, and from her poetry, you can hear the wisdom of understanding shine through.

Lesson number three is perhaps the most important one of all.

You do not have to agree with everything someone says or does to learn from them. Remember that Yah spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey. (Numb. 22:28)

Lol. These bitmojis are just funny to me

“I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”

– Amanda Gorman

Stepping Outside the Genre Box

Once upon a time, back in 2017, I shared the first chapter of a crazy fantasy story about fallen angels disguised as women with blue eyes killing black men for their power and one woman’s mission to stop them. I had no intentions of ever publishing it. My purpose was to share a free story on the blog that readers could enjoy. I played around using some of the same characters and background from another book I had written but have since retired.

To my surprise, so many people enjoyed the first chapter, so I came back the next week and wrote another chapter and then another and then another until I had written eighteen chapters of a book I never intended to write.

The more I shared, the more readers loved it. This got me excited!

In 2020, while we were all bored in the house and in the house bored, I worked on finishing the book. It is now a full-length novel I will release later this year.

If you have been following this blog over the years, you are already familiar with The Women with Blue Eyes (now titled The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen) and I am so excited to finish it for you.

Moral of the Story

 

It’s okay to step outside the box and write something different, especially if it’s something you know readers would enjoy. Master P is not just a rapper, he is also a full-blown businessman with several products. He has everything from cereal to oodles and noodles, to potato chips to fish fry.

As I was drafting this post, I tried to think of how to explain that it’s okay to write in a genre you are not typically known for without sacrificing your author brand.

My first thought was to remind you that you are the brand, not the book. It is less about the genre and more about how you stay true to your message.

This is still true, but last week I came across a post by Phyllis Zimbler Miller where she was given some advice that really put it into perspective for me.

Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.

Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.

She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.

“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”

I love this because it frees the writer from the genre box. In my own words, I would say to write in whatever genre you want, but keep your message consistent. While Master P does many different things he wasn’t known for before, his “No Limit” message stayed the same.

Since I usually write Black Historical Fiction, my story will incorporate black history, all the way down to how I represent the characters. In Greek Mythology, Paschar is the angel of vision and is a white male. In my version, Paschar is still a fallen angel, but she operates in the skin of a black woman.

I’ve also infused black history into the narrative with my character’s background and dialogue. If you’ve been following the series on this blog, Miss Vicky is a new character you haven’t met yet. She is a member of the renovation committee at the new Altgeld Projects and former cook for the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Here is an excerpt from her giving black history to a couple of corner boys working for Big Sam’s organization:

Closer to the buildings, girls jumped double-dutch on the sidewalk, and young boys stood up on their bikes, riding them back and forth. The boys wore no shirt, and yellow headscarves hung out of their back pants pockets. Their pants were always sagging, revealing their boxers underneath. They knew they will be scolded by Miss Vicky if caught. She was always telling them to pull their pants up and giving the history of Buck Breaking. It was the practice of slave owners raping black men as a form of punishment on the plantations and then forcing them to sag their pants in the fields, so everyone knew the cost of disobedience.

“Nuh, uh,” the boys would protest, “I heard that started in the jails Miss Vicky.”

“You heard wrong,” the middle-aged woman would protest, “that’s not to say it didn’t circulate in the jails, but that ain’t where it started. Buck Breaking was popular in the Caribbean ya see, and it involved white supremacists and slave owners raping a male slave in front of the public to embarrass him and make him feel less of a man. Buck Breaking became popular when slave rebellions went up. Enslaved men were first stripped naked and flogged.”

“What’s flogged Miss Vicky?”

“Boy, don’t they teach you nothing in school?”

The boy would laugh, holding onto the handles of his bicycle.

“He don’t go, Miss Vicky,” another boy would chide, laughing at his friend.

“You remember how ya mama beat you for stealing car parts last year? That’s flogging. Whippings. Beatings.”

“She flogged ya ass,” the boys’ friend would tease.

Vicky would hide her laughter and continue her lesson. “Like I said, they would flog—whoop the man in front of a crowd after they raped him to serve as a warning to other slaves. Sometimes enslaved men with families were forced to have sex with each other in front of their family, or they were raped in front of their sons…”

“Dang,” the boy would say, doing wheelies on his bike.

“Hmm hmm, sure did. Lot of ’em who had gone through the process of buck breaking killed themselves afterward or ran away and never returned. Better learn ya history.”

“Aiight,” the boys would say, smiling and riding off. Miss Vicky would go on to finish her laundry, and the boys would ride off and play. Secretly, they enjoyed listening to her black history stories and would ask her questions just to get her talking. Though, they still did not pull up their pants.

The boys were not regular teens. They were corner boys for Big Sam’s crew. The yellow bandanas that hung from their back pocket was proof that they belonged to the organization. Miss Vicky liked talking to them because they were innocent during these conversations. When she spoke to them, she saw their youthfulness peaking out from behind their eyes. It was hard trying to get a fourteen-year-old boy who paid all his mama’s bills with drug money and had already decided he was a man to listen to you, but when Miss Vicky told her stories, they listened. At these times, she could see them like she used to when they were just four and five years old before Scar recruited them.

How does a Black Historical Fiction writer write Fantasy? By infusing black history into the narrative. You will learn how it all ties in when you read the book.

Read. Read. Read.

Another tip I would add is to read books in that genre. No matter how deep your message, nothing will free you from not following the basic elements associated with that genre, so read, read, read. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with stepping outside the genre box.

Share Your Work

Next, don’t be afraid to share your work. I don’t know if I would have been as confident in this story as I am if not for my freedom readers and their feedback! Thank you all for helping me pick a subtitle. The winner (as you can see) is Rise of the Fallen!

Try It Out on the Blog

And finally, blogging is another great way to write your book! It gives you the chance to get instant feedback that could help you to stay motivated along the way.

“I don’t think Byron stands a chance from falling.”
“Wow wow wow. I am enjoying this story. I’m all invested. I can’t wait for the next installment. This story has some interesting characters. Keep up the excellent penmanship!!!!”

“I’m truly enjoying this :-). I’m glad I can click on episode 3 😛 Thank you EC. Much love from Spain.”

“More please!”

“Loved this and wanted to read more. Is there more?”

“You are an excellent writer.”

“Hi Yecheilyah! I’m new to this series. I will need to go back and catch up! Chapter ten is captivating.”

About.

When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.

She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.

Paschar is the angel of vision. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions.

Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their power. How dare he choose them over her?

Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.

Coming 2021

Lit Mag 2020 Is On the Way

The 2020 Lit Mag Literary Magazine for Poets is on its way out! We are proud to feature last year’s Grand Prize Winner Chanelle Barnes on the cover. Volume 2, Edition 2, is scheduled to print Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

This year’s magazine features the winners of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contest 2019”: Chanelle Barnes, BuddahDesmond, Jahkazia (Jah-kay-asia) Richardson (our 2018 Champion), Kiyana Blount, and Dondi A Springer. The mag also features the poems of select poets who participated last year.

How can you be featured in the Lit Mag Magazine? Be sure to participate in my annual poetry contests! Rules and guidelines for the 2020 competition to be announced.

Be sure to support this contest by picking up your copy of LitMag 2019 by clicking on the link below. Your contribution helps us to keep this contest going by keeping the entry fee-free or low-cost for participants, allows us to print the magazine featuring the winners, and of course, offers some dope prizes to contestants! Link below:

Get LitMag 2019 Here

Visit our 2017 Winners Here

Visit our 2018 Winners Here

Visit our 2019 Winners Here

Richard Wright Native Son Movie Trailer

How did I miss this??

Native Son is a movie based on one of my favorite books out of High School, back when I first started college and began my journey of literally devouring Black Literature. So, the first thing I noticed about this trailer is that it’s a modern adaptation. If you’ve read the book, you know the story was written in 1940 and takes place in the 1930s. Bigger Thomas is a young black man of only 20-years-old and is living in extreme poverty on Chicago’s South Side. The movie appears to have a modern spin and Thomas doesn’t appear to be as poor as he was in the book.

My torn and overly read Native Son book

I won‘t lie. In the first three seconds of seeing the trailer, I was surprised to see the military look of the jacket and beret bigger wears because that is not the persona of the Bigger in the book. Bigger in the book is more so laid back (at least that’s how I pictured him). Like all book adapted films, I am expecting everything not to be exactly the same while hoping the plot resembles the book and that things aren’t too modern even with the modern adaptation. I admit I kinda hoped it did take place in the 1930s. I’m a Historical Fiction writer after all so of course I think they could have left the timeline alone. I guess I fear the whole “black revolutionary” thing is becoming too much of a trend. Like he’s gotta be militant because being “black” is cool now and everybody’s “woke” or whatever.

Anywho, excited to see this though!

Apparently, it has already aired so I’ll be looking for it. I might just reread the book before I do and of course, I’ll be sure to blog my thoughts.

In the meantime, have you seen this? Looks like it premiered two days ago (4/6). How was it?

 

Guest author: Yecheilyah Ysrayl ~ NEW: Even Salt Looks Like Sugar: a novella

Thanks Again Sue!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

A new book by Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.

What Readers are Saying:

“I loved the dynamic between Wanda and her BFF, Rosa. They grew up in foster care together and had each other’s backs no matter what.This was a quick read, more like a short story. It held my attention and gave some good info on the foster care…

View original post 323 more words

Now Available: Even Salt Looks Like Sugar – a short novel

Sneak Peek:

Edited by Lynette Davis

“What’s got you so happy?” said the dark-skinned, toothless woman. She was smoking a cigarette. But Lavenia was on that stuff and it had made her skin darken and cling to her bones. A lot of their neighbors was like this. They nodded, bowing low enough to be inches from the floor before jerking back again, brushing away bugs, only they could see as they unnecessarily cleaned, picking imaginary lint from their clothing, and laughing at jokes only they were in on—the real walking dead. Their skeletal bodies roamed the country roads early mornings, afternoons and late at night. Or they stood next to gas stations waiting for customers to come out, so they could collect change, their long skinny fingers curled into tight fists around the crack they sold their souls for.

Wanda cringed on the inside. Seeing her people like this made her physically sick. Lavenia was once pretty.

“It’s a good day. That’s all.”

Lavenia frowned and inhaled the cigarette like it was the last one she would ever smoke.

“Hmm. Yea. How Abby doing?”

Diversion. Lavenia never asked about Abby. Lavenia only cared about one thing. Getting high. Wanda frowned at the thought. She was so excited, she hadn’t noticed the signs.

“Oh, Abby is doing good, Miss Lavenia. I think she’s adjusting real nice. You seen her mama any?”

Lavenia let the cigarette breathe some, exhaling smoke into the air before sucking on it again.

“Naw. Ain’t seen her since that day.”

She was talking about the day she carried Abby into Cassaundra’s prison. Lavenia eyed the young lady in front of her. She had a shape like that once.

“You got some money? Let me borrow a couple dollars till my paycheck hit.”

“I’m sorry Miss L. I ain’t got nothing on me.”

“I can walk with you to the house. All I need is a lil change.”

“I can’t. I’m broke.”

Lavenia frowned. “You ain’t no damn broke.”

“Miss L. I am. For real. You know if I had it, you’d have it. I gotta get going. Tell Brandon I said hey.”

Lavenia walked off in a hurry. Brandon was her son. She’d probably left him in the house by himself again.


NOW AVAILABLE!!

EVEN SALT LOOKS LIKE SUGAR

a short novel

Order the eBook for 99cents HERE

preorder a signed paperback HERE

or mark as want to read on Goodreads here

About. Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.

Even Salt Looks Like Sugar, a novella – Coming October 2, 2018

Novella’s have my heart. The Stella Trilogy was a novella series and readers loved it so I had to write another short story! (If I am honest, I think they are kinda my thing).

This book is coming to you on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.

Proceeds from this book will go toward the funding of my next poetry contest.

We are looking to level up BIG time for year three!

This is modern-day literary fiction and is available now for pre-order.

 

Cover Reveal for

‘Even Salt Looks Like Sugar’

Even Salt - Book Cover

 

 

About.

Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt that Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.

Title: Even Salt Looks Like Sugar, a novella
Author: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Publisher: Literary Korner Publishing
Publication Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Coming October 2, 2018

MARK AS ‘to read’ on Goodreads

PRE-ORDER NOW