Introducing Buddah Desmond: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

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Today, we introduce you to Buddah Desmond, whose poem “Ghosts, Ghostbusting History + Visible / Invisible Lives (Freedom Is Ours)” won first place in our fifth annual poetry contest!

Buddah, Welcome to The PBS Blog!

What is your name, and where are you from?

My name is Buddah Desmond. I’m from the DC Metro Area. Currently reside in Alexandria, VA.

When did you first fall in love with poetry?

For me, it all goes back to music and lyrics. As a lover of music and words, I’ve always homed in on lyrics. Hip Hop was and still is a major influence. I learned early on how powerful words can be… Their impact… How they can move the masses. Songs like:

  • Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” and “Follow The Leader”
  • Salt-N-Pepa’s “Get Up Everybody (Get Up),” “Expression,” and “Blacks’ Magic”
  • LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” and “Around The Way Girl”
  • MC Lyte’s “Cappuccino” and “Poor Georgie”
  • Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y.”
  • Kool Moe Dee’s “How Ya Like Me Now”
  • Big Daddy Kane’s “Smooth Operator”
  • Get Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
  • A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour” and “Scenario (Featuring Leaders of the New School)”
  • Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours”
  • Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”
  • De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, and I”
  • Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”
  • 2Pac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up”
  • KRS-One’s “Sound of da Police”
  • Jody Watley & Rakim’s “Friends”
  • Run DMC’s “Down With The King”
  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”
  • Outkast’s “Player’s Ball.”

This is a small soundtrack of what inspired my love of not only Hip Hop but poetry as well.

No you didn’t just give us a full playlist!

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When I first read your poem, I wrote “Top” on it because I knew it would be among the top five. Like, even if it didn’t win, I knew it would somehow be a winner. So, please tell us, what inspired this piece?

I’ve found that the experiences, stories, voices, and the true history, herstory, and theirstory of Black and Brown people continues to be silenced, censored, and ignored. Far too often, our contributions to history, society, and culture are embraced only when it’s convenient for the powers that be. And when we typically raise our voices, show up, show out, turn up, turn out, and redirect our buying power, that’s when we are blasphemed. Like “How dare they do such a thing?” When all we’re doing is fighting for basic, civil human rights. We’re only visible when they want us to be visible. Like we’re ghosts. When we raise our voices, they ghostbust. And that’s why we fight. Why we must continue fighting for and claiming life, visibility, justice, and freedom. So that’s the inspiration behind my poem.

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If you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead, who would it be?

See, that’s not fair. You always get me with these questions. When you have more than one favorite poet, questions like these are always difficult. LOL! How about a luncheon with a panel of our favorite poets instead? LOL!

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My answer to this question will probably change depending on the day, lol! If I must choose, I’d say either Maya Angelou or Nikki Giovanni. Can you imagine?!! Not only would the conversation be out of this world, but the food would probably be unforgettable, too.

Awesome. What inspired your writing journey in general?

I started writing short stories around 7 or 8 years old. Song lyrics followed shortly thereafter. But it was hearing Maya Angelou’s poetry recited by Justice, the character Janet Jackson played in John Singleton’s classic film, Poetic Justice, that inspired my poetry writing journey.

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Yass. That’s my movie.

I’ve said this before but, Maya Angelou’s poetry moved me in ways that I’m not sure I knew how to comprehend, let alone describe when I first heard it. One thing was certain—I wanted to do what Maya Angelou was doing, with the hopes of being able to write poetry that resonated with others the way Maya Angelou’s poetry resonated with me. She’s a poet’s poet. Her command of the language, her consciousness about the human condition… Her compassionate, soulful writing leaves you with a better understanding of yourself, others, and the world.

Exactly. You hit the nail on the head with the human condition. Maya was all about that.

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I already know the answer to this question because you strike me as someone who speaks…you into spoken word?

Yes, I have. Many times. Performing for me, whether it’s poetry or music, is otherworldly. There’s something about it that transcends space and time. It’s like going to a higher place. When I’m really in my element (and not too much in my head), I lose myself in the performance. It’s almost like blacking out but in a good way. There’s nothing on this planet that compares to the experience of performing.

Shifting From The Inside Out Love Poems by Buddah Desmond (cover)

What does freedom mean to you?

I think my best answer to this question comes from a piece that I wrote entitled, “Finding Freedom.”

“Loving yourself and others unconditionally is freedom
Shaking bad habits is freedom
Holding on to your joy through it all is freedom
Standing in your light is freedom
Not being ashamed of your voice, your story,
and where you came from is freedom
Getting up even when everyone and everything
around you wants to keep you down is freedom
Building the life you want is freedom
Knowing better and doing better is freedom
Not letting your emotions influence every
action and decision you make is freedom
Exercising your right to choose is freedom
Saying NO is freedom
Being every bit of the FAB person you are is freedom

To find freedom
You have to be
willing to release
all that’s kept you
in bondage
To be free
you have to
free yourself
Free yourself
Free
Yourself
FREE.”

“Finding Freedom” appears in my forthcoming project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home.

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Okayy. Go off then!

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?

Read. Read. And READ some more! And not just poetry books. But all kinds of books. Reading opens your mind to possibilities beyond your current realm. So absorb, learn, and apply as much as you can. Follow the journeys of the writers who inspire you and learn about their process, who or what inspired them, and how they pushed their respective genres forward. Seek mentorship from writers who are in the process of getting to where you want to be or who have already achieved the levels that you desire to achieve.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different styles. Push yourself and your artistry as far as you want to go. There are no limits, other than the ones we place on ourselves. Be confident in yourself and who you are as an artist and poet. People are always going to have something to say. It’s your choice what you want to do with it. If it’s constructive criticism, take it into account and determine if and how you want to incorporate it moving forward.

And it goes without saying that rejection comes with the territory. Do not take it personally. It’s not a rejection of you as a person, your artistry, or your writing. What’s for you is for you. And it won’t be denied. Your job is to keep going. Keep writing! Don’t stop, keep on!

Loving the motivation!

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Please, tell us about your books/work.

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I write about the human condition, and the things I see in the world around me. I write in a way that is, at times, edgy, raw, and in your face. It can be prose-like. And there’s a musicality within it. My work is inspired by personal experiences and the experiences of others, current events, history, culture, and social issues.

Themes within my work include: home / belonging; personal + collective freedom + liberation; the transformative power of love; community wellness; legacy + living a good life (relationships + family + community + honoring our ancestors); personal empowerment (self-esteem + self-love + self-acceptance); the fight against oppression (police brutality + injustice + inequality + inequity + racism + homophobia + transphobia + sexism). The subject matter can get heavy, but there’s an underlying message of faith, healing, hope, optimism, persistence, resistance, and resilience.

Whew. Wait, hold on. Let us get our pencils and write this down!

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I released my first book Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics in 2012. A chapbook entitled, Exotic Shifter, followed in 2014. It served as a prelude to From The Inside Out: A Poetry Collection, which was released in 2020. After that, I digitally released a short collection of love poems entitled, shifting from the inside out, on Valentine’s Day in 2022. And my forthcoming book is entitled, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home. The poetry in Everything I Miss(ed) At Home dives into the meaning of home. The place(s) we call home. Those we find (or don’t find) within our families, friends, communities, within our intimate relationships, and most importantly, within ourselves. Release date is TBD, but it’s on the way! It’ll be published by Liquid Cat Publishing.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

Promoting my forthcoming project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home. More performing, on virtual and in-person stages. Participating in festivals, workshops, and author events. Getting more poetry published in online magazines and journals. Finalizing my next manuscript and preparing it to be published. And giving back in whatever way I can!

We will be on the lookout for that book!

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Now let’s dig into the poem that snatched the number one spot!

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Photo by Collis on Pexels

Ghosts, Ghostbusting History + Visible / Invisible Lives (Freedom is Ours) ” by Buddah Desmond

Covered in the blood

Blessed

Praised

Adored with oohs and ahhs for what some
might call our supernatural powers and abilities

Yet, beneath the adoration—we’re deemed
disembodied souls

Ghosts

Immaculate for show and tell

For milking and misappropriation

For capital interests and bottom lines

Yet demonic and sacrilegious when we
demand the dignity and respect all beings
created by God deserve to receive

Dispirited

Ever ghostly

Most invisible

We rise up

And they ghostbust

To exterminate that which they don’t want to see

To disassociate from that which they can’t bear to concede

Ghostbusting is their band-aid

Their ego-stroker

Their power sustainer

As we know, without proper healing—sores and pain remain

And as we know, you can act like something

isn’t there all you want

But there comes a time when you can ignore it no more

History wasn’t meant to be comfortable

There were atrocities and inhumanities from

sea to shining sea that we can’t ignore

Some still happening to this day

And while some will proclaim it wasn’t all bad

We know it wasn’t all good either

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Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile

In the wrong hands, history is rewritten to

block out the true history, herstory, and theirstory that binds us

These hands set out to make our visible lives invisible

These hands ghostbust nonfiction

Turning it into the bestselling fiction that has so many

misled, pimp slapped, and hoodwinked today

These hands dare anyone to speak out and

criticize their recrafting of history

For punishment is swift, shameful, and at times, lethal

Forgive them father for they know not what they do?

Excuse me father, they know exactly what they’re doing

There’s a reason why ghosts and spirits roam

To right wrongs

To vindicate

To fight for justice

And they will not rest until their mission is fulfilled

For every uprising

Every protest

Every rally

Every boycott

Every march

Every sit-in

Every strike

Every campaign

Every cultural, political, and legal battle

Every BLACK OUT

We will not rest

Until our lives are no longer invisible

Freedom is ours for the taking

And our freedom—

Oh, our freedom—

We’re taking it!

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Buddah Desmond

Buddah Desmond (aka BDez) is a writer / poet, artist, singer, entrepreneur, and health and wellness coach / advocate. His writing highlights the gritty side of life, while offering messages of hope, love, healing, and resilience.

He is the author of four poetry collections, Prevail: Poems on Love, Life, and Politics (2012), Exotic Shifter (2014), From The Inside Out: A Poetry Collection (2020), and shifting from the inside out: love poems (2022). His writing has appeared in numerous publications including MOOV, MUSED, MelaNation, Mixed Mag, LitMag 2020, No Line Left Behind, Osamasetorbest.com, and sana sana (vol. 1). He is a member of Gamma Xi Phi, and has served as a healing leader in the DC-based arts + faith + social justice organization, The Sanctuaries.

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His next poetry project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home, is forthcoming.

Website: http://buddahdesmond.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuddahDesmond/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/buddahdesmond/

Twitter: @BuddahDesmond

Wanna join the fun? Head over to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for 2023!

Introducing Daphne Adeola Ayo: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

DA

Today, we introduce you to Daphne Ayo, whose poem “Uncaged” placed second in our fifth annual poetry contest.

Daphne, Welcome to The PBS Blog!

What is your name, and where are you from?

My name is Daphne Adeola Ayo, and I am from Kogi state, Nigeria.

Nigeria in the houseeee.

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When did you first fall in love with poetry?

I fell in love with poetry in Junior Secondary School Three. I think that’s Grade 9, the third year of Junior High in American parlance. Our English language teacher had asked the class to write a poem, and just like that, I found one of my absolute loves; poetry! It became, for that teenager, a form of therapy, a friend, a soulmate, if you will.😊

Yasss. What was the inspiration behind your poem?

Hmmm. There is so much negativity in the world that sometimes it is hard to see the positives. It can be hard to fight back against the constraints which keep us “in check”, to change the status quo. However, it can be done. “Uncaged”, I would say, was inspired by this ever-growing desire to stand up and show up for myself and my dreams despite all the ‘can’ts’, ‘should nots’ and all the odds stacked up against me as an opinionated, ambitious woman in a man’s world. It’s my way of telling others like me that they can define freedom in their own words and have the strength to push through and break those bars.

Beautifully articulated! Who would it be if you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead?

I have so many poets I look up to and admire. This is hard!😅 Can I choose two? I’ll choose two. Rumi and Warsan Shire.

Awesome. Daphne, are you into spoken word?

I have never recited my poem before an audience before. Well, except you count me as an audience.😂

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I would really love to explore the world of spoken word poetry someday. I have one in the works, but it is too shy to leave its shell. The first time is always the hardest.

As an introvert, I feel you. It gets easier the more you do it!

What is your personal definition of freedom?

Freedom means so much to me. I doubt you can even begin to understand how much, and I think that was why the theme resonated so well with me and my pen was able to do its thing. Freedom for me is to do whatever I want (within reasonable limits, of course), to be whoever I want, to speak my feelings, to embrace my demons, to depend on nothing, to live, to love, to win, to lose, to laugh, to cry, to just be ME.

I heard that. What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?

I would tell you what my close friends told me in many moments of doubt: “Do it!” I used to have this self-doubt over my poems, ‘Are they good enough for other people’s eyes?’ and sometimes I still do, but poetry is something that is personal and worth doing. It’s like being worried if people will like the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose. It doesn’t matter as long as you own it and love it. If it brings you joy, do it! Take that pen and write, your poetry might be for a few, and that’s absolutely okay.

I love that, and I am sure you have just rescued someone from the bowels of doubt for sure. Please tell us more about your work.

I presently do not have any published books. Everything is still in the works. Some are very shy. I’ve written more poetry and flash fiction than I’ve done of any other genre. My works explore womanhood, grief, loss, love, feminism, friendship, domestic violence, mental health, stigma, and taboo topics in the Nigerian society. For the last one, I’m still building up my courage to share works on that.😅

Chile, we would LOVE to hear more about those taboo topics! We are all about normalizing taboos around here.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

I’ve learnt not to really project into the future. If you live in Nigeria, you’ll understand why.😅

Daphne, you gonna stop teasing us now! Lol

I do hope that I would have taken a significant leap of growth in my goal to become a creative writer while smashing my other goals as well.

Dope.

Now, tell us. What’s one topic that is Taboo in Nigeria?

That would be homosexuality. I think it intriguing that although it definitely exists, most people would rather pretend it doesn’t.

Ohh. Interesting.

Thank you once again for everything!💙

You’re Welcome hun!

Now, let us dig into this poem!

“Uncaged” by Daphne Adeola Ayo

I sing of words hidden behind my tongue

and of rare, bleeding emotions masked in a song.

My fears and tears take shelter underneath the ink of my poetry;

Poetry which regales tales of sutured pains sautéed in silky smiles,

tales of scars adorned in sordid lies of healing,

tales where blue skies rebel in hues of grey and dark clouds herald gloom.

I hear the dirges from faraway,

singing of doom and caged dreams.

These bars won’t budge;

bars of tortured silence and locks of pain

This caged bird will sing:

In lines of euphemism,

in words of hope and wishes made on starry nights.

That one day, its dark and dreary nights would seek the dawn

and tell tales of battles fought but barely won,

of words breaking chains to escape oaths of silence,

tales of mended wings and beloved demons,

tales of how freedom at long last_____

heeded my relentless summons.

Daphne Adeola Ayo

Daphne is a Nigerian writer who believes in the power and magic of the pen. A student of Classics at the University of Ibadan, she is an avid fan of canine animals, chocolates, and books.

She loves to read, digest, and write poetry. Her works have appeared in her personal poetry journal, on her Instagram account @dee_.vox, and in Classics Press publications, University of Ibadan.

Her works explore themes such as womanhood, love, loss, friendship, and more.

When she is not writing or sleeping, Daphne watches Kdrama, stage plays or listens to Brymo.

Instagram: @dee_.vox

Are You A Poet Looking for More Exposure?

Go to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for our 6th Annual Poetry Contest 2023!

 

Introducing Renita Siqueira: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

RS

Today, we introduce you to Renita Siqueira, whose poem “Allowed to Exist” placed third in our fifth annual poetry contest.

Renita, Welcome to The PBS Blog!

What is your name, and where are you from?

I’m Renita Siqueira and I’m from a city called Pune in India.

India in the houseeee.

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When did you first fall in love with poetry?

It was during one of the Literature lectures in college. My professor explained the meaning of each line of a poem. I sadly don’t remember which poem it was, but for the first time, I realized poems are not as simple as they can seem to be. There is a technique, rhythm, music, and a lot of thought that goes into writing them. They can evoke feelings, stir up memories, lead to uprisings, and connect strangers. They are powerful! With the beauty of imagery and different figures of speech, you can write about something without mentioning it at all and leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Your poem stood out because you gave us a glimpse of life on the other side of the world.

Please, tell us what inspired your poem.

There is an increasing intolerance in my country to differences in various things, such as opinions, beliefs, and religious practices, to mention a few. I was shocked to read the news that young Muslim girls were asked to remove their burkhas and hijabs if they wanted to step inside the classroom. They had to choose between two BASIC human rights—the right to free primary education and the right to practice one’s religion freely. I’ve grown up reading about women like Savitribai Phule and others who pioneered women’s education back in 1948, and here we are in 2022. Disheartening!

Today, it isn’t uncommon to read about mobs, lynching, someone being attacked based on religious grounds, being discriminated against for favouring/supporting a particular political party, etc. People are trying to speak up, but many voices are silenced under various garbs without reason.

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There is a powerful line that says:

“Now, the punches break walls and bones and homes
with unveiled ferocity
no admonishments, no penalties.”

Can you break this down for us?

There has been an increase in caste and religion-based hate crimes in India. People from minorities or certain castes have been subjected to mobs, lynching, and attacks on them and their property. There have been cases where people have been forced to sing slogans of another religion just to stay safe. Rana Ayyub, one of our most outspoken journalists, has been a victim of incessant trolling and threats. Many of the perpetrators of these activities have gone scot-free. If you read the article about hate crimes, you’ll see that some of these horrific crimes were not even reported or acknowledged.

Today, sadly, such stories of violence have become so common that they’ve become just another statistic.

Wow.

If you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead who would it be?

Can I cheat and name two? My favourite poet alive is Sarah Kay. I first came across a video of her performance with Phil Kaye on YouTube. The vocabulary in her poems is simple, but the subjects and writing make you feel the depth of it.

Yes, I am familiar with Sarah Kay! Amazing talent.

My other inspiration is Maya Angelou. I didn’t know much about her when a friend lent me ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, but later, I kept hearing references to her from different people. I get goosebumps whenever I read or hear her performance of ‘Still I Rise.’

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I know right! Maya was amazing.

What inspired your writing journey?

I am quiet, an introvert, and most often found listening to what others have to say. But I am also very observant, creative, and perceptive and have my own take on things. The bio on my first blog read, ‘I express myself better through the written word to convey unseen feelings and unheard thoughts :)’. Ten years later, I find myself better at expressing my thoughts vocally, but I still prefer the written word. I received a lot of encouragement from my family and friends. Moreover, when people shared that they liked what I wrote or it made them think, that encouraged me to keep writing and trying to hone it.

On a side note, I like writing in rhymes, but sadly, it’s not considered serious poetry.

Aht, Aht! All poetry is serious poetry, lol.

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Have you ever performed your poetry before an audience?

I was first introduced to live spoken word when I was in Bombay and attended an event curated by Rochelle D’Silva. She was amazing! I’ve fangirled over Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, read Nikita Gill, and listened to Megha Rao’s podcast. It was so cool that I wanted to give it a try.

I ended up reading, instead of reciting, my poems a few times out of fear of forgetting. It was very nerve-wracking. Yet, as poets, we know exactly which words require emphasis, where to slow down and pick up the pace, where to pause, etc. If I practice long and hard enough and gather enough courage, I would love to give spoken word a try.

I think you’ll do great.

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

To me, freedom means the ability to ‘live and let live’ without impeding on someone else’s right to live, and their way of living shouldn’t affect mine. I’ve grown up practicing ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’. If I don’t want to be discriminated against, want to read, eat, travel, and do the things that give me joy, I also need to make sure I don’t step on someone’s right to do the same.

Well said.

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Freedom has been a recurring theme in my writings. Some of them are Dreaming of Freedom in a Totalitarian RuleFreedom* (Terms & conditions apply) and Some wrongs are forever.

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?

I’m learning myself, so I’m not sure whether I can advise. My Manager says the best way to improve at anything is through practice and exposure. So, keep writing and reading. Be okay with being mediocre in the beginning; everyone has to start somewhere. Diamonds shine only after all the polishing, right? Don’t discount yourself, don’t assume publishers will not like what you write. Write it anyway, share it anyway. Most often, there’s more to gain than to lose. And give up the idea of ‘perfection’—a perfect word, a perfect poem, a perfect time. If perfection existed, progress wouldn’t.

Please, tell us more about your work.

I am an instructional designer, freelance writer, and poet. I’ve written for various publications on the environment, healthcare, gender, and socio-political issues.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

I’m a work in progress. I’ll be reading and writing for sure, developing new interests and hobbies, learning and growing, and, fingers crossed, having a book published.

Yess, to published books! Talk that talk.

Now, let’s get to this poem!

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Photo by Monstera

“Allowed to Exist” by Renita Siqueira

I hail-ed

from the golden bird of the east,

the land of riches, of diversity, of hospitality…

You’d be welcomed.

Here, you could find men

with a turban, a taqiyah, a crucifix and a sacred thread

Exchanging tales of laughter, sadness and fears.

Here, you could find women

permitted to pick up pen and paper

and right their own futures.

Here, you could agree to disagree,

roll with the punches

without bleeding life and its dignity.

Here, we celebrated each other in our own ways

bowing to our different gods, because

They were allowed to exist…

in a democracy.

I now hail

from the land of saffron,

the land of poverty, of conformity, of not bigotry… yet.

You are (not) welcomed;

Hungry wallets are.

Here, you will find men

but the turban, the taqiyah, the crucifix must remain hidden;

The tales are replaced

by grim pleasantries, meaningful nods, suffocating silences.

Here, school girls can wear hijabs

But must strip their personal beliefs at the classroom door

if they want an education.

Here you can say your prayers

but not too loud.

Now, the punches break walls and bones and homes

with unveiled ferocity

no admonishments, no penalties

if you dare to swim against the tide of saffron

which began through trickles but now threatens

to wipe you out.

Here, history is being rewritten or expunged.

I read 1984 and wonder

Did Orwell foresee what would happen in the land of his birth?

Here, we celebrate what’s left of ourselves

within our boxes, hiding our labels

without stepping out of line

bowing our heads to one god

the only god that’s allowed to exist…

AuToCrAcY (in disguise).

Renita Siqueira
Renita Siqueira

Renita Siqueira is from India. Growing up in a family of readers and teachers, and with lots of books, she finds recourse in words. She found poetry, or rather poetry found her during college when she was encouraged to take part in a poetry competition. Since then, she hasn’t stopped writing. She’s an instructional designer by profession, poet by passion and hopes to have her own books of poems published someday.

Being a creative person, she draws, paints, sings, dances (in her bedroom), lovingly makes handmade gifts and does a bit of gardening. She enjoys traveling and loves train rides. She’s constantly on the lookout to learn something new and grow. “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

Renita’s portfolio: http://renitasiqueira.contently.com/ 

Poemshttps://www.instagram.com/pensiverenderings/

Songs: @RenitaSiqueira

Art: https://www.instagram.com/art_fortheheart_/

Blog: http://ren-creations.blogspot.com/

TwitterRenita Siqueira (@renitasiqueira) / Twitter

Wanna join the fun next year? Head over to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for 2023!

Introducing Rebecca Whitman: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

RW

Today, we introduce you to Rebecca Whitman, whose poem “Moment of Truth” placed fourth in our fifth annual poetry contest.

Rebecca, Welcome to The PBS Blog!

What is your name, and where are you from?

Rebecca J. Whitman, eastern North Carolina.

When did you first fall in love with poetry?

My earliest memory of anything I said I wanted to be was a writer. More specifically, I wrote that I wanted to go to college for a Bachelor’s degree in Writing. I was seven when I wrote that, and I did go on to accomplish it. I majored in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I have been writing poetry all my life.

That’s awesome! “Moment of Truth” is a powerful poem. What was the inspiration behind it?

“Moment of Truth” is about a relationship where one person is always feeling a little more love than the other, and it traps them. I also challenged myself to use beach and water imagery because I live in a coastal state. I felt the beach imagery reflected the ebb and flow of their relationship as well.

Brilliant. I love the risk you took in putting a twist on the theme. It’s like the person yearns for freedom but can’t quite grasp it. What went into your decision to end the poem the way you did?

I love poetry that has unexpected endings and lasting imagery. I also wanted to stay true to what happened to the characters in real life. They remained friends but only as long as the one (speaker) silenced her own feelings about the other. She thought freedom was tied to him loving her, but that was something he could not give. She could only find freedom when she stopped expecting him to love her in return, but that also was her prison.

Wow. Powerful. If you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead, who would it be?

I love a lot of different poets, old and new, but I think the one who changed me the most was Michael Ondaatje. He was my first experience with mixing non-fiction and poetry. He also left a lasting impression with the depth of sensory detail in his imagery. If I could, I would love to sit and talk to him about his work.

Nice. What inspired your writing journey in general?

As cliché as it sounds, reading inspired my writing journey. I have been exposed to some amazing writers and traveled through time and space with their words. No other occupation ever seemed so magical and weighty to me as that of a writer.

I was in love with reading too so I feel you! It is definitely the driving force behind the first study of writing for many.

Are you into spoken word?

I have read my poems before a live audience, and I have recorded readings in the style of spoken word. It was intimidating, but it also freed me up to explore the work in a different, empowering way.

Yes indeed. Rebecca, what does freedom mean to you?

Freedom is both a right and a privilege. When I think of what it means to be free, I think it means the ability to have equal opportunity in life. In America, we talk a lot about freedom. We say it is a right our forefathers fought for, but it is also a privilege. Not everyone can freely say and do what they wish the way Americans do.

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?

I have never seen poetry as a career–it is more a form of expression as near to me as breathing. I can’t write at all without eventually coming back to it.

Being a published poet is a game of endurance and persistence. You need to be willing to put in the work to master your craft. It takes time to find your voice and perfect it. You also need to be open to sharing your work and gleaning from criticism. Some of my best advice came from peers in writing circles in college when I was too scared to share my heart on paper.

Get involved in as many contests and publication opportunities as you can because poetry publication is all about getting your work seen. When you are ready, pursue opportunities to publish whole collections of your work.

Please, tell us about your books/work.

I write regularly on my blog, The Bohemian Princess Journal, at rebeccajwhitman.com. There are over 150 posts there intentionally designed to inspire and build community. I am also working on poetry, short stories, and non-fiction for publication locally and internationally.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

As a writer, I hope to see more work published diversely as it is now. I would like to see growth in how many readers I have around the world. At last count, I had readers in over 70 different countries.

I know that’s right. Now, let us dig into this poem!

Photo by Tuấn Kiệt Jr.

“Moment of Truth” by Rebecca Whitman

I let you lead me across salt-cured planks

of yellow wood, greyed by time in the sun.

I walk on water, yet oceans stand

between your heart and mine.

How long will the wind

be more curious to play

with my hair than you are?

How long will you hold my hand,

Tell me your secrets, and

Deny me your name?

Am I still a departure

from everything you think

you want for yourself?

Is loving me still an anchor

pitching you overboard

from your freedom?

I look up at you with angst,

longing to be the girl who lives

in your shadow, and warms

your bed.

You squeeze my hand and smile,

refuse to say the words

that will make us more.

I build sand castles

around my heart and live

barricaded.

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Rebecca Whitman, 2022.

Rebecca J. Whitman is a high school English teacher by day, and a local news reporter by night. Though that sounds like a super hero bio, she believes the real power lies in developing work/life balance and enjoying her life. She lives in Eastern North Carolina with Bachelor and Master’s degrees in English and Writing. She shares her writing regularly to an international audience on her blog. When not working, she enjoys travel, art, writing, and quality time with loved ones.

Websitehttps://rebeccajwhitman.com/

Instagram: rebeccajwhitman

Bloghttps://rebeccajwhitman.com/the-bohemian-princess-journal-2/

Are You A Poet Looking for More Exposure? Go to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for our 6th Annual Poetry Contest 2023!

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith


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Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog!


Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of the other, but she has not let this stop her from pursuing her athletic endeavors. Smith does not only swim but has been involved in bocce, track and field, basketball, and flag football. She has won gold medals and traveled the world.

However, Ashton’s journey has not been without trial.

According to the rules of the Special Olympics, they ban their athletes from making income. This left Ashton struggling to find a way to support herself even as she was competing. While headed to the World Games in Dubai, Smith struggled financially and fell into homelessness.

“I think it becomes unfair and harsh when members are prevented from earning a livelihood off of their own efforts. I think it’s unfair that a team member should have to be reduced to begging for money on the side of the road, which I had to do while being an athlete in the organization. I was required to raise money for the organization, yet when I started a GoFundMe, I was told to take it down. I was asked to stop asking the public for money.”

Without a home, Smith bounced around from place to place and depended on friends for help. When her grandmother died, she lost her only form of support.

“It was very hard, very difficult, and very tough because you didn’t know where your next meal would come from or certain things you wouldn’t know.”

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Today, Ashton is committed to sharing her story to raise awareness about the unfair treatment she received as a disabled person.

“I find it odd that television networks aired my story about being homeless and nearly destitute, yet I couldn’t benefit from the content. They used it to make money, yet I was never given a dime. I’ve never gotten paid by ESPN or the organization but they used my story to make millions.”

Ashton’s grandmother and sister helped her financially. However, both have passed on, making getting around as a visually impaired person even more challenging.

Smith’s fight continues as she seeks to spread the word about her newfound purpose of being a voice for the voiceless. She achieves this through public speaking and her motivational memoir, which delves deep into her story and journey.

“I have decided to speak up and be an advocate for the disadvantaged.”

– Ashton Smith

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You can help Ashton by purchasing a copy of her book Swimming UPSTREAM, available now on Amazon.

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Be Sure to Follow Ashton online!

Website: https://golden-ashton.us/

Instagram: @goldenashton_us

Twitter: @goldenashtonus


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about the Introduce Yourself Feature HERE.

Winners: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

22 Dope Participants
4 Dope Winners!!!

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Today, I introduce you to the four winners of this year’s poetry contest followed by their Instagram handles. Get on over there and follow them neoww.

#1: Buddah Desmond

“Ghosts, Ghostbusting History + Visible / Invisible Lives (Freedom is Ours)”

(@buddahdesmond)

#2: Daphne Ayo

“Uncaged”

(@dee_.vox )

#3: Renita Siqueira

“Allowed to Exist”

(@renitasiqueira)

#4: Rebecca Whitman

“Moment of Truth”

(@rebeccajwhitman)

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Congratulations!!

And congratulations to everyone who participated! There would be no contest without your support.

This is the first time we’ve had such a diverse group of winners!

We even have winners from India and Nigeria! Can you guess who it is?

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We ultimately chose our winners for receiving high scores in several areas, including beauty, power, education/message, originality, creativity, how closely they followed the submission requirements, and overall impact.

I am incredibly proud of what they will bless you with in these coming weeks!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special thank you to my team!! Thank you for recommending poets, posting the flyer to your social media, providing feedback, and all that good stuff!

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Over the next few weeks, we’ll spotlight each of these poets individually on the blog and social media. We’ll dig deeper into what inspired their poem, read the winning poem, and understand their writing process.

Please go to my Instagram @yecheilyah and @yecheilyahbooksllc and show them some love!

  • Follow the Poets
  • Save the post
  • Share the post
  • Like the post
  • Comment a “Congrats” on the post
  • Did I say follow the poets? 🙂

Here are the links to all our winners from years one through four!

Yecheilyah’s 1st Annual Poetry Contest 2017
Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest 2018
Yecheilyah’s 3rd Annual Poetry Contest 2019
Yecheilyah’s 4th Annual Poetry Contest 2021

Wanna join the fun? Head over to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for 2023!

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Monique Johnson

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Please help me extend a warm welcome to Monique Johnson.

Welcome to the PBS Blog!


What is your name and where are you from?

I am Monique R Johnson, Los Angeles, CA born and raised, but moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 2019.

Nice. Cali to Texas is a big transition. What inspired the move?

I considered Texas several years prior. A couple of people I grew up with made the move over 15 years ago. It was when I started dating a guy I worked with who, later took a job in Texas, that I reconsidered. 

What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?

My perfect writing and reading room would look like a university library.

Nicee! I’m loving it already.

I’d have a writing desk with the perfect desk lamp for late-night writing. I’d have a bookcase with books from various genres: motivation, Christian spiritual, financial, self-help, poetry, and a few children’s books for my grands. I would have a leather recliner and a tall, full bird of paradise plant in the corner near the window.

What is the most annoying habit that you have?

Correcting grammar. It gets on everyone’s nerves.

So YOU the grammar police!

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If you could do anything else, what job do you think you’d be really good at?

Lawyer. I love to make my point.

Lol. Any siblings Monique?

Three biological brothers, one step-brother, and three step-sisters.

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?

Mansion, with an east and west wing, two kitchens, game room, media room, living room, enclosed patio, herb and vegetable garden on one side of the back yard, a dog run in the other, and an in-ground swimming pool in the center. The house would have a balcony with an amazing view. The bathroom would have a walk-in shower, with a waterfall feature and a sitting area.

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Let’s get into writing a bit. What genre do you write in and why?

Mixed Genre of non-fiction with a dramatic approach and a sprinkle of poetry to end each chapter. I love writing this way because it makes it more engaging and easier to explain how people can get unstuck.

Why is writing important to you?

I write for my family and generations to come so that they will know how I made it through the toughest times in my life. I want readers of my work, be it my poetry, my magazine articles, or my novel, to know that an everyday person like themselves can get through whatever they are dealing with if they decide to believe that they can.

When did you publish your first book?

My first Anthology was published December 2021. My first memoir was published June 30, 2022. It was exciting and challenging for me. I learned that publishing is not the hard part, it’s the promotion and marketing that’s hard for me.

I get it. So what takes up too much of your time?

Figuring out systems for my business and now my book journey.

In your book, you talked a lot about how your faith got you through a lot of the pain. Do you consider yourself a religious person?

I am not religious in that I do not believe in all of the rules and traditions that mark religions. I do follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Christ was a spiritual teacher and healer, but the world was not ready to receive such a reality. Religion nailed him to the cross.

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If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be?

To make everyone love each other with a Godly love.

What does a Godly love look like?

A Godly love looks like a man and woman who puts God first, demonstrates unconditional love, sacrifices for one another, and goes to God in prayer over situations the couple cannot handle in their own strength.

What are your thoughts on race?

We should embrace our differences, and not be opinionated on who is the better of the races. The conflict is in the ignorance of one or the other and the fear.

What do you think of police brutality in the black community?

I am mixed on it. I am a mother of black sons and they express to me that they know how to do the psychological game with the police so, thank God, they’ve not been a victim of it. They have been stopped, even arrested, but never mishandled. How can we do better? I think all of our people who have been victimized, profiled, or targeted by law enforcement should learn to use psychology, or better yet wisdom instead of responding with emotions. That is not helping during intense situations.

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How would one use the study of the mind to avoid police brutality? Can you give some examples of how getting overly emotional could worsen already intense situations?

For example, if an officer is approaching a black man on a routine traffic stop, or suspicious activity, the black man should not react in a defensive, or in any way that can be taken as uncooperative, or threatening. Instead, he should be compliant, ask what the stop is for, ask if he is being put under arrest, and get the officers names. A calm, unemotional state of mind will put the officer a little more at ease, thus de-escalating the situation.

Now Monique…

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You KNOW I got more questions, chile. But, let’s move on.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again.

What is your best advice for reducing stress?

Get enough word in you to have something to meditate on when you are getting overwhelmed. Walk, bike ride, or spend time doing dedicated workouts. Eat healthy.

In your own words, what is humility?

Maintaining a grateful attitude, not thinking you deserve all the accolades, but are willing to share the spotlight. Gracious in your acceptance of gifts, complements, and is not easily offended.

What is love?

God. It is receiving others right where they are without judgement. Accepting the good and the bad. Tolerance. Caring about your fellow human. Forgiving.

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Thank you, Monique, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!


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Copyright©2022. Monique Johnson.

Monique Johnson is a native Californian who relocated to Texas in pursuit of new opportunities just before the world-wide pandemic and social unrest. She is the former founder and president of a nonprofit after school program she created to help keep teens off of the streets. She brought awareness to the Prison Industrial Complex and how it’s growth was planned based on statistics pulled from the minority population. These stats have been improperly used to build more prisons, thus keeping this population incarcerated. She mentored youth to keep them from making bad choices that could land them in the unforgiving criminal justice system.

Johnson motivates single mothers, women in general, as well as young men to push through the hard parts of life. She is an experienced trainer, speaker, project manager, and has a gift of leadership as displayed in her professional career and community. Her books and her upcoming workshops are geared toward her goal to help women and men in their business, personal and spiritual development.

Check out my review of Monique’s book here!

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Be Sure to Follow Monique online!

Email: mjohnson@envision1t.com

Website: http://www.envision1t.com

Instagram – envision.1t +  relentless.lyresilient

Facebook – Envisioning Possibilities

TikTok – MJENVISIONIT


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE.