Unfinished

Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash

Would you still love me

If I told you instead of making mistakes, I made choices

that clawed its way into my conscious

Would it frighten you

to know being hit by a car isn’t my only accident

and a surgical staple isn’t the only thing

I’ve been shot with

Would it shock you

if I said, I am not always acting like a queen

Could I be honest

about the weight of this crown

What if I confessed my sins in ink

washed my hands of transgression on paper

Is it okay if I sacrifice my body to this poem?

Purify my mind and kill my pride

by lynching my secrets to this tree

transform this test into a testimony

take this trial and morph it into some kind of triumph

some kind of victory like the overcoming of flesh

forged in a fire for the overcoming of death

Would you still admire me

If you knew about the parts of me that aren’t admirable

Add me

to your list of humans humble enough to admit

we encounter defeat

but strong enough not to be defeated

We are not diminished

Maybe just a little

unfinished


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The Enemy of Poetry

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I am not at all surprised I am enjoying Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just as I am. While I am not an actor,* I try to learn as much as I can from others. Even if it’s reading a book, I want to know what brought us together and what purpose I might piece together that we are intended to serve to each other.

I have had this post sitting in my drafts since the beginning of May. It wasn’t until I read this chapter last night I could finish it and feel comfortable publishing it.

In Chapter Ten, Center Stage, Miss Cicely is recounting her training with Vinnette Carroll playwright, actress, theater director, and the first black woman to direct on Broadway, with her 1972 production of the musical Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

In discussing art, Miss Cicely (I like saying that) explains in just a few short sentences everything I want to convey in this post. 

“Vinnette taught me to learn technique and then to forget it–and to resurrect it only if it served my portrayal. Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion. I once knew an actress who was a brilliant technician, but her portrayal fell flat. She could create a moment and bring it to fruition, yet it was apparent she wasn’t feeling anything, and as a result, neither was her audience.”

Cicely Tyson, Just as I am, Chapter Ten, pg. 156-57

“Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion.”

I never consider myself an expert on anything. I will say what I have come to know in my experience, both as a writer and listener of poetry, is to watch out for intellect. By intellect, I mean the need to be so fancy you confuse the reader. It is, in my opinion, similar to using technique and forgetting emotion.

That is why I often feel that intellect, if not used in balance with emotion, passion, and heart, is the enemy of sound poetry.

“Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.”

Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems

I have read poetry so over my head I could not possibly relate to it. Metaphors and similes were so puzzling I am not even sure Maya Angelou could decipher what the poet meant if she were alive. I once read a poem that ended with the author saying he or she had eaten a bird. I do not know who or what the bird symbolized. All I know is a bird at the beginning that ended up eaten by the end of the poem.

Poor bird.

I did feel sorry for the bird to this poet’s credit, so I was not without emotion completely. It is not lost on me that readers can discover their own meanings and interpretations of poems, which is part of the fun. We learn what the author intended for the poem to communicate and what we got from it based on our personal experiences and feelings. I love hearing how a poem I’ve written resonated with readers, even if what they got from it was different from what I thought as I wrote it.

But, I like to think reading and writing is a partnership. While the first person our writing serves is ourselves, I would hope there is something to be gained by the reader too. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the beauty of language that there is no substance, just pretty words. I expressed this in the poem Give Me Life.

To me, this would be similar to the woman Tyson references, who was a brilliant technician when acting but could not move her audience.

If you know anything about me by now, you know I am a Black Movie Buff. It’s like Justice said in Poetic Justice about having something deep to say, about having a voice.

Lucky: “What you write about in that notebook?”

Justice: “That’s my poetry.”

Lucky: “You trying to say my cousin’s shit ain’t poetry?”

Justice: “It ain’t if he ain’t got nothing deep to say. Gotta have a voice. A perspective.”

Intellect can be a strength or it can be a weakness.

If there is an easier way to say something, write it plainly, and it will reveal its own depth. I like to write the poem as it comes to me and then come back later to dress it up. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little icing once you have the cake.

Here is another quote I picked up from the quote of the day from author and editor Shayla Raquel’s newsletter, which I also just read yesterday.

“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” 

— Meg Rosof

*I said at the beginning of this post I was not an actor. I should say I am not a professional actor, as I do have some experience with it. In High School, I was part of a special program to write and perform plays. I cannot remember the program’s name or what the aim was, but this was my first official summer job. I did this for the summer of my Sophomore and Junior year, taking an official drama class my senior year, where I would also perform my poetry live for the first time as a monologue. In 2015, I was featured in a stage play at the DuSable Museum.

But as I reflect, fun as it was, I prefer to write the screenplay. Ya’ll can do the acting.


Yecheilyah's 4th Annual Poetry Contest

Have you entered this year’s poetry contest? I hope I gave you some inspiration! Take your time but keep your eyes on the clock. June will be here before you know it.

Submit your love poem on or before June 1st.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Note: I have not read any of the poems submitted yet! I don’t read any of the poems until the contest has ended and everything is in.

Black History through Poetry

I hope you are all doing well and all that good stuff. I have not blogged much lately because I am working on The Women with Blue Eyes and tons of other projects, including our 4th Annual Poetry Contest I want to get underway next month.

If you are new here, welcome to The PBS Blog! This is a great time for you to learn more about who I am through my most recent interview

Below is a snippet of the interview and links with WRDE-TV, an affiliate of CBS. Also find links to Fox 34 and WBOC, affiliate of NBC. (If you read one, you’ve read the others cause it’s the same article, just on different platforms.)

Interview Snippet:

What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?

Y: Faith without works is dead, so my best advice is to do your work. Get on your knees and pray and then get on your feet and work. I hate to sound so overly simplistic, but sometimes things are a lot simpler than we make them out to be. We must be willing to do the work necessary to manifest all that we believe we can achieve. Belief is good, but alone it is not enough so I cannot tell you to just believe in yourself. You must prove this belief with action. What you say you believe is one thing, but what you do exposes who you really are. Whatever it is you say you want, you must act on it for it to become a reality.

Not only must we love ourselves and believe in our ability, but we must also be prepared to do the work necessary to turn the unseen into the seen. Consistency is also key because while actions speak louder than words, consistency speaks louder than both. These skills Yah has blessed us with are not intended to serve only us. They are meant for us to multiply. This is possible when we combine a steadfast belief with a compelling work ethic.

Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?

Success to me means to genuinely enjoy what you do with your life without sacrificing your authenticity. It means to multiply your gifts to serve as many people as is destined for as long as the breath of life is in your body and you are walking this earth. To do so with as much grit and love as possible, and to do it all while staying true to your integrity.

Read more at one of these links:

FOX 34: https://www.wdfxfox34.com/story/43500189/author-and-poet-yecheilyah-ysrayl-teaches-black-history-through-powerful-poetry

WRDE: https://www.wrde.com/story/43500189/author-and-poet-yecheilyah-ysrayl-teaches-black-history-through-powerful-poetry

WBOC: https://www.wboc.com/story/43500189/author-and-poet-yecheilyah-ysrayl-teaches-black-history-through-powerful-poetry


Read I am Soul or My Soul is a Witness? Don’t forget to leave an honest review! Links below.

Click here to review (or buy for 99cents!) I am Soul

Click here to review (or buy) My Soul is a Witness

You Are Woman

Photo by Kingsley Osei-Abrah on Unsplash

You are a rarity.
A gemstone that is not only precious but scarce.
You’ve been disgraced and beatdown so long
I doubt you know the difference.
Something is only precious when it is preferred.
But when a gemstone is rare
people search for it, and when they find it, they rejoice
for a rare gem is not easily available
for it, one must look.
There is no creation like you.
There is no body like yours.
No mind can conceive of the things you’ve seen
Even the ground is confused in the way that you walk
When you wake, the earth
quakes and shudders and the sun smiles
No instruction can map out the contents of your mind
You precious one.
You rarity.
You delicate rock.
You silk mountain.
Do not become small for those who refuse to climb.
Let the ordinary ones stay on the ground.
Let those who cannot swim stay on land.
Understand, you are a fist full of moon.
And those who cannot appreciate your light
must stay in the darkness.
There is no place for shadows
in the land of the living.
You are life.
You are womb.
Without you, the man was incomplete,
and without help.
You are not only golden
You are gold.
You are historic.
You are not only precious
You are rare.

You are woman.

The Year of Wisdom

Photo by Reneé Thompson on Unsplash

I thought year thirty-three was going to be the year of wisdom.
Profundity would find me on the edge of the ocean
dipping my toes in the waters of understanding.
Clarity would embrace me like a sister
and I would smile a thousand times.

But buried under year thirty-three
naïveté found me on the edge of stupidity
and dipping my toes in the waters of doubt.
Confusion embraced me like a sister,
heartbreak like a friend,
and I felt that I could die
a thousand deaths.

Thirty-three became the year of mourning.
A scorching misery, I would pull over my head
like a hoodie, pulling against the drawstring
so it covered my face
unafraid that someone might
mistake the heart in my hand
for a weapon and kill me
like an unarmed black man.

And I did not care if they did.

I was sackcloth and ashes.
Beaten by loss-the death of a mother,
uncle, brother, and the loss of a friend.
My tongue could taste the bitter tang
of humiliation like plaque on my teeth,
and tears turned into oceans I drowned in.

I thought year thirty-three was going to be
the year of wisdom.

And, strangely, it was.

Thirty-three quieted me.
It forced my tongue to the roof of my mouth
fixed my jaw to clench shut my teeth
while cultivating me in the furnace of affliction.

Profundity did not find me
on the edge of the ocean,
and I have not dipped my toes
into the waters of some grand understanding.
Instead, the flames of truth
burned off the useless layers
on the surface of my skin.
My tears are oceans of holy olive oil
washing away the sorrow from my soul.

Seeds of fight root themselves
in the crevices of my heart
that I have pushed back into my chest
so that out of the ashes of pain
wisdom may grow
so that out of silence,
understanding will meet me here once again
on the edge of the ocean
where I am smiling
a thousand times.


Don’t forget that if you have read My Soul is a Witness I am trying to reach 20 Book Reviews before this year closes and we are two reviews away! (Update: For some reason one of my reviews were removed. Boo. So I am 3 reviews away). If you have the book (and have read it), do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon by Jan 1.

Note: This poem is not in the book. It is new for those flipping your pages wondering where it is lol.

How to Review on Amazon:

Click this link. Scroll down to ‘Write a Customer Review,’ rate and leave your thoughts on the book.

Also, I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle for a limited time.

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE

Good Day Freedom Readers!

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE.

Amazon

Signed Paperback

Goodreads

About.

My Soul is a Witness, a collection of poems that reminds us that there is still hope in our darkest moments. Nothing we go through is without a purpose. No pain we suffer, and no trial we experience happens without reason. It all ministers to our education and the development of ourselves into the people we are ordained to become. It helps to cultivate in us a spirit of patience, faith, humility, and self-control.

Be safe and enjoy your week!!

The Wait is Over

I’ve been working on this collection of poetry since I released I am Soul three years ago. So much as happened in that time that most of this year feels like it happened years ago. It feels like Kobe Bryant died in 2019, but then I remember that tragedy happened earlier this year. I have to remind myself that Kobe’s death is how we opened the year!

It feels like I went to Spain for the first time last year, and then I realize that it was just this past February.

Sometimes, it feels like Friday, and then I remember it is only Tuesday. I find myself looking at the calendar more just to remind myself what day it is.

This is 2020.

The most significant change is the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, we focus on our individual struggles, trials, and tribulations, so it’s funny to think about the world around us being just as chaotic as our internal struggles. As if a global, deadly virus isn’t enough, the rest of the world is just as upside down.

Black men and women continue to be gunned down in the streets. Historical monuments are being demolished as people awaken to the truth of its origin. The traditional school experience for our babies is all but gone. Sports games do not have an audience.

Oh, and we are all walking around wearing masks and shaming people for not being “productive,” enough during a pandemic.

*Queue George Orwell’s 1984*

We are eight months into 2020, and I sense we haven’t seen anything yet.

But there is always hope.

There is no better time than to release this collection amid such a revolutionary era. Revolution only means change, and while most of the changes we’ve seen have been negative, there is a lot of good happening too. The good is harder to see because hope doesn’t make the news, but like the wind, it is there. I had my first school visit this year, where I spoke to 15 ELA classes about writing. I also had my first keynote invite and welcome this year by the Queenz Circle of ATL Bookclub before the pandemic took away the freedom of face-to-face events.

A lot has happened this year not just for me but also for you, so here’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve learned nothing we go through is without a purpose. No pain we suffer and no trial we experience happens without reason. It all ministers to our education and the development of ourselves into the people Yah ordained us to be. It helps to cultivate in us a spirit of patience, faith, humility, and self-control.

I hope these poems are a reminder that in our darkest moments, there is still hope. And I hope this collection will invigorate and renew your soul.

I am excited to share this with you!

My Soul is a Witness ❤️