They have turned truth into a popularity contest
where contestants compete to measure egos
but their faith is all fluff
and their zeal, a Judas kiss.
They forgot where they came from
so the hood is desolate of disciples.
Far be it from them to be seen in the streets of sinners
(the messiah did it, but they don’t really know their scriptures)
They preach salvation
but dine with demons
They walk on water
and dress in white
but they are not wise
Scripture is an early-morning anthem
but when one is hungry, they walked right passed them
Their heads are high, their garments fresh,
the world is ending; the time is dire
but the hypocrites do not reach for the lowly
they preach to the choir.
They teach those who already know the lyrics to the song
too mighty in their own eyes to see their own wrong
They sound intelligent to the human ear
but they crawl on their bellies and their eyes are slits
these die-hard saints are really just snakes
Chanelle’s passion for writing poetry stemmed from an early obsession with song lyrics, reading and discovering the benefits of journaling. Inspired by poet/songwriters such as Jim Morrison, Jewel and Ani DiFranco, she began to find her voice, which has evolved immensely throughout her life experiences.
Over the years, she has shared her work via several blog names and has experimented with the art of spoken word. At times, she’s veered away from writing a bit to work on other creative endeavors but poetry has always been a staple and a place of healing.
More recently, she has moved her focus and research towards storytelling and activism through elements of performance and slam poetry. With this new venture, she hopes that others can relate to her stories and be inspired to start writing and sharing their own.
Your piece “Straight Lines,” won this year’s contest and your second submission “My Body Isn’t a Temple,” is an honorable mention. Please, what inspired these poems?
Straight Lines – This piece was a work in process for quite some time. As I struggled through some self esteem issues I began to delve into a different style of writing and healing. This was one of the first poems that surfaced. Soon after, it was performed at a poetry reading and has since been one of my favorites and most meaningful to date. As with all of my writings, I hope that others can relate and find the courage to overcome their insecurities as I did. (even though it is still a work in process)
We are all a work in process chile. I know I am lol. Tell us about “My Body Isn’t a Temple.” I know the title got some people like what? Ya’ll gotta read the poem though! It’s not what you think.
This piece was inspired by the Me-Too movement. So many people stood up to share their stories and I was finally able to voice mine. It was important for me to aid in bringing forth awareness towards such an important issue. I believe survivors and I am proud of them.
As the grand-prize winner you get a full interview so go ahead and get comfortable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water…wine?
If it’s that kind of party, some wine sounds perfect!
Yass! Here you go!
Okay. Let’s start from the top. What is your name and where are you from?
Chanelle Barnes -Fort Wayne, Indiana
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
Somewhere cozy with a fireplace, plants, sunshine (but no too much), lots of pillows, a record player and inspirational artwork. There would be large dormer window with a seat that overlooks an abundant forest.
Nice! That sounds really comfortable. What is the most annoying habit that you have?
I have a habit of being self-conscious and at times, too modest.
What job do you think you’d be really good at?
I think I would be a good travel blogger! Or… perhaps a wedding planner.
I can actually picture you doing both those things. Any siblings Chanelle?
I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. They are amazing.
Awwue. Tell me, what skills would you like to master?
Acro Yoga & Ballroom Dancing! I would also love to hone in on public speaking. No matter how many readings I do, I’m still terrified!
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but I have also been wanting to go to a Wellness Retreat somewhere exotic! I also want to take a train ride across the states sometime.
I feel you on the public speaking! Chanelle, what is love?
Love is being your true self. Love is comfort. Love is not giving up but also, love is blind.
If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
My finished house would include a balcony, porch swings, fireplace, a scenic view (preferably with water), a winding staircase, a greenhouse, a large art room, a guest suite for my friends to visit whenever they’d like, a claw foot bathtub, secret passages, lots of plants, pets, a room with a glass ceiling and a telescope to view the stars and an abundance of color.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Why is writing important to you?
To heal, inspire and release.
Having dealt with trauma at an early age (and being very shy/ introverted) I found writing to be the only way that I could sort out my thoughts and feelings in a way that made sense. Through journaling, poetry and music I felt I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t until much later, did I decide to share my writings publicly. It was at this point, that I realized I could not only express myself in this art form, but also inspire others to write and heal as I did.
Who’s your favorite writer?
Right now, I am really feeling the spoken word artist Kyle Tran Myhre (Guante). He has been a huge inspiration as I move more towards spoken word and event planning. I also have been relating to and enjoying work by Rudy Francisco and Ruby Dhal.
Love Rudy. Just finished his Helium Audiobook. Good stuff.
You said you are moving toward Spoken Word. How would you describe the difference between spoken word poetry and written poetry? How are they similar and how do they differ?
To me, I feel that a spoken word piece is better portrayed when performing and it is written as such. I also feel they tend to be a little more raw. There is more that can be expressed when using tone and body language. With written poetry, it is up to the reader’s imagination to determine the tone and flow which is also satisfying. My spoken word pieces are typically stories and my written poetry is more based on feeling and emotion. I hope that makes sense!
It does! What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult is being vulnerable.
The most exciting is painting a picture with words and words alone.
It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there to the world, but it’s also one of the most exciting!It’s kind of like inviting others into your soul and like any art form, putting yourself out there for criticism or judgement. It’s a risk worth taking though.
I like to compare poetry with music. You know when you hear a song and it makes you feel a certain way? When you hear lyrics and you can relate or they speak to you even though you really don’t know what the songwriter was thinking when they wrote it? It’s like that. Creating an image or story for the reader or listener to take with them. It’s all about twisting words into a feeling. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s so true!
That’s one of my favorite quotes! Speaking of music, we love music on The PBS Blog. What kind of music do you like and what songs have you completely memorized?
I love all kinds of music! Mostly, I listen to music with lyrics that make me feel something or beats that make me want to dance or relax.There are many, but the first one that comes to mind is Carnival by Natalie Merchant.
Chanelle, what takes up too much of your time?
Working two jobs and taking care of my home. I wish I had more time to work on writing and other creative endeavors.
I feel you. What do you wish you knew more about?
The human mind.
What about the human mind do you find most interesting?
I’ve delved in quite a bit when I was studying for my psychology degree and I think that’s what jump-started the desire to learn more. What I’ve been most interested in is social psychology, dream analysis and mental health. The mind is like an ocean and there are so many parts left to discover!
What’s your favorite drink?
Okay Chanelle. You know I gotta mess with you. Tea is supposed to be hot lol so what’s your second favorite drink?
Haha, okay that’s fair. Let’s see… I would say my second favorite would have to be this glass of wine I’m having.
Heey. Here, let me refill that for you.
While you sip, favorite color?
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
Across the Universe -I think I lived through the 70’s in a past life.
Chanelle, I am all about self-care and self-love. What do you love about yourself?
Resilience. My ability to rise up against anything that gets thrown my way. This life isn’t easy, but I have my strength and experiences to guide me.
Love it. Speaking of self-love, what is love?
Love is being your true self. Love is comfort. Love is not giving up but also, love is blind.
Most people think of love only in terms of “romantic” relationships and when I ask what it is, most people give me a definition based solely on that so I love that you defined it outside of that box.
I do have to ask though, you said love is blind, what does that mean?
To me, it means accepting flaws and feeling a deeper connection within the soul. In other words, it is felt, not seen.
What is truth?
An unbiased sense of self, void of outside influences.
Thank you Chanelle!
Be Sure to Follow Chanelle Barnes below and look out for both her pieces, “Straight Lines” and “My Body Isn’t a Temple” in the 2nd Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine, 2020.
Be sure to follow @literarykornerpublishing on Instagram and Facebook for notification of the release of the 2020 Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine for Poets where you will get to read our winning poets pieces in full AND the poems of everyone who entered this year’s contest! Be sure to also subscribe to this blog.
Richardson is an actor and poet. She is currently studying Social Work at North Carolina Central University. She appreciates going to live shows in the area as well as trying different recipes from all over the world. Currently, she is a preschool teacher where she teaches them how to play unapologically. Her poem “Aya,” is a powerful piece about wrongful convictions which we know is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement to date in the Black community.
“Police sirens rang in the distance like freedom, The smell of privilege and oppression filled the air, I – somehow confused the chain-linked fences With chains and handcuffs.
They say “I am under arrest,” I say, “I am innocent!” But somehow I still fit the description”
Excerpt from “Aya”
Jahkazia, your work is beautiful. Please tell us, what inspired your poem?
“I was wrongfully arrested for a crime I did not commit. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, so I wanted to shed light on this experience.”
We asked Jahkazia to dig deeper into the experience behind her poem.
Considering the police brutality plaguing the Black community, why do you think it is important for Black writers specifically to talk about their experiences in poetry?
Black writers have to talk about their experience first hand in order to make it real. Black death has been dramatized over and over. To make it more digestible society disconnects themselves from the soul attached to the victim/survivor. Writing about our experiences makes it impossible to disconnect. This is my story. These are my words. You can not, you will not erase me.
How has writing about your own experience with a wrongful arrest helped you to heal from the experience?
Believe it or not, this was the first time I have written about it since it happened (almost 3 years ago). I would speak about it briefly, and I even did an interview with a collective of Black Femmes who wanted to know about the experience of our dealings with the police. This wound being reopened has been hard, but rewarding in the sense that it has given me an increased momentum. Since I am now a social worker, my duty is to educate, protect, and inspire – that is healing in itself.
It is indeed. I love how poetry can heal by bringing out our most deep self. Thank you for sharing this with us!
Blount is a hard working, dedicated and strong single mother who is on a journey of living through self love, self awareness and true divinity. She is seeking her true purpose and living it to make an impact on the world.
“Keep watching me I’m coming like the Lioness of the jungle
Hunting the wanting of my universal platform
Perspiring strength while I join the revolution for my evolution
Fighting my way through the shed layers of my old self”
-Excerpt from “Lioness Strength”
Kiyana! Good to have you back.
Lioness Strength is such a powerful title and we are excited to read the whole piece in next years Literary Magazine. For now, please tell us, what inspired your poem?
The major life changes that I had to endure this year led me to a path of realizing I needed to love myself more. Even though much had happened, I used those down moments to build myself back up and be the Goddess I am. Now I am working towards building my empire and legacy to leave my mark and leave for my SonShine to carry.
Right now I have my own business of promoting a healthy lifestyle and providing whole food natural products to help aid in weight loss and a healthy, natural you from the inner to the outer.
Eating healthy is big right now. How does this relate to or help you with your writing?
Working on my inner has really helped me to express externally. Taking the healthy approach along with strengthening myself spiritually and emotionally has made it easier for me to tap into my art and connect with my poetry on another level! I read my poetry and see the growth from being an unhealthy me to working towards and being closer to a better version of me inside and out.
Beautiful. Any books in the works Kiyana?
I am not a published author YET but I am working on some pieces. Peace, love and light Kings and Queens! You’ll see me soon!
You heard it here first people! Look for her. She’s coming.
Every living thing wants to be loved
We need it like the lyrics in our throats when the beat drops
on our favorite song
like the natural way our bones jump
and our legs twitch
and our hands move about
and we dance
Every living thing needs to be loved
like dandelions in a field trying to convince the world
that they are not just weeds
We hope someone will care enough to watch over us
And not transgress our boundaries
Won’t severe our flowers from their roots
Won’t pluck our souls
From its skin
We do not need to be picked and fussed over
We hope only, to be loved
To be cared about while breath
Still feeds our lungs
Hoping someone will love us intentionally
Like the giggles of a child
Free, raw, and innocent
Hope to be as valuable as the swell
Of a woman’s womb
and the protruding belly that everyone wants to touch,
but no one does without permission
The delicate miracle we all want to protect
and we hope to be miracles too
a surprising welcome worthy of protection
because every living thing
wants to be loved
I’m Laura DiNovis Berry and I grew up in Lititz, PA, a town that once had its own chocolate factory and now draws famous musicians in.
Yess to chocolate. What genre do you write in, why?
I primarily write poetry. I dabble in short stories, but poetry is like painting with words and there’s something about verse that constantly drives me to keep pushing myself to improve in that arena.
Got another poet in the house ya’ll. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first poetry chapbook, Bright Pink Ink, right before my wedding last year. It was extremely liberating. I was planning a wedding and a move from Pennsylvania to Texas so having the ability to channel some of my frustrations and nerves into that book provided me with a fantastic stress reliever.
Congrats on the book AND wedding! Laura, are you employed outside of writing?
I am! I have had the pleasure of working and learning from a wide variety of jobs. Currently I work as a Drama Teacher and work with children all the way from kindergarten up to high school. On the whole, it has been a wonderful experience.
I love teaching children. What’s the best thing about working with children?
There is nothing like working with human beings who have only been alive for a few years!
Their take on everything is fascinating. They can be exceptionally mean and fabulously kind – the reminder that they are still learning how to function in this world is sobering, but makes me feel extremely privileged to be a part of that growth. It can also result in some hilarious situations like having the kids be convinced that your hair is a wig since you’ve cut it short. I had to let my class of six year old tug on it to verify.
I understand also you write free poetry book reviews? Tell us about that.
I do! Book reviews are desperately needed in the poetry community so I created Berry’s Poetry Book Reviews last year. This is a platform for poets so they may reach out to a broader audience! The reviews I provide are free but I donate 10% of of my earnings and donations from patrons to a non-profit organization every year. Last year the beneficent of of these program was the Kennett Square Garage & Youth Center, an after school program which aims to empower middle and high school youth. This year, our combined efforts will be helping Lambda Literary!
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Rugby has had a grip on me since college. Right now I play with the Corpus Christi Clams Women’s Rugby Club. I will be moving soon, sadly, but I have actually begun working on a full poetry collection inspired by the female rugby player’s experience so I don’t think I’ll be able to stop playing any time soon!
Alright now so we got another book in the works. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
My husband would sniff at this, but there’s a very good chance it would end up looking like an earth witch’s hobbit hole.
It would be warm, cozy and lead out into a garden filled with vegetable, guarded by maple trees.
Okay that sounds better. Scared us there a moment. What skill do you think you’ve mastered?
Oh, that’s easy. The skill of being ridiculous.
Lol. Care to explain? What’s ridiculous about you?
Well, I am generally known to be silly – it is not an uncommon occurrence for me to start dancing…wherever really. I like to have a good time and make people laugh.
Yea, laughing is lit. Does blogging help you to write?
It does and it doesn’t. It helps in the sense that I practice different forms of writing (more journal-esque writing), but it hurts because I distract myself from working on my poetry.
Understood. Laura, life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
Exercise – it doesn’t even have to be anything intense. Just the other night my husband and I were in, not quite a fight, let’s say more of a spat, but walking – taking a nice walk outside together – really helped both of us calm down and better engage with each other.
Nice. What do you love about yourself?
My parents once said I don’t know the concept of failure, and I think that is definitely something that I love about myself.
Thank you Laura for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Laura DiNovis Berry recognizes that poetry is a near magical craft that she will never fully understand but will forever be held in fascination by it. When she is not working on her own poetry, she provides free book reviews for her fellow contemporary poets.