3rd Annual Poetry Contest Spotlight Interview: Grand Prize Winner Chanelle Barnes


About.

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. 

Chanelle!! Welcome!

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.

Copyright© 2019. Chanelle Barnes.

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?

Hot Tea.

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.

Thank you.

While you sip, favorite color?

Purple  

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.

Copyright © 2019. Chanelle Barnes.

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.

Copyright©2019. Chanelle Barnes

Instagram: @redredclover 


Today wraps up our spotlight of this year’s poetry winners.

All poet spotlights can be found on this page.

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.

3rd Annual Poetry Contest Spotlight 2019: Returning 2018 Champion Jahkazia Richardson

Jahkazia (Jah-kay-asia which translates to Goddess of the land) is not just a returning poet but she’s our 2018 Champion! She shocked us all by submitting her poem minutes before the deadline and winning it all with “What if I Knew My Worth,” which you can read by clicking here and picking up a copy of the 1st Edition 2018 Lit Mag Magazine.

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!

Be Sure to Follow Jahkazia Online!

 

IG: @chamelaninaire 

Facebook: Jahkazia Richardson


Our first and second place winners are up on 12/2 and 12/4! They have a FULL interview coming and trust, you DON’T want to miss it.

Hit the subscription button!

Peace and hair grease!

Yecheilyah’s First Annual Poetry Contest – Grand Prize Winner!

Hey Guys!

I am honored to introduce to you our Grand Prize Winner of my first poetry contest!

First, a special thank you to Colleen and Lisa for helping me to put this together. With my schedule, I could not have done it without you two! Family, please go ahead and follow their blogs. You WON’T be disappointed!

Follow Lisa Here

Follow Colleen Here

Next, I would like to thank everyone who entered as well as those of you who shared this contest. It is not easy to “stand” up here and do something like this so thank you for your support.

Drumm Rollll…

Congratulations to Merril D. Smith for her poem “Zora Neale Hurston.”

Not only did it touch on our theme, but it embodied so much of Zora that I felt like if I didn’t know who she was before, I did now. Here’s what Colleen had to say:

“The author captured the essence of Zora and her strength to fight for the rights of African American women as if she was able to channel her bright spirit through the written word. Splendid imagery and descriptions. When I close my eyes, I can see Zora in all her glory!”

My favorite lines are:

“…her soul crawls out

from its hiding place

time and distance cannot shrink

her words…” – Colleen Chesebro

Whoop! Merril, here’s what you’ve won!

  • Amazon Giftcard
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (hardcover)
  • From When I was a Black Girl by Yecheilyah Ysrayl (paperback)
  • And Still, I Rise by Maya Angelou (paperback)
  • Your Poem on this Blog
  • Social Media Support

Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

Author Photo: Merril D. Smith.

MDS: Thank you so much, Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Colleen Chesebro, and Lisa W. Tetting! I am honored to have been selected as the Grand Prize Winner for this poetry contest.

My name is Merril D. Smith. I live in National Park, NJ, which is a small borough right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. I’m an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in American history, but my blog is mostly a poetry blog. Poetry is my creative outlet, though it is something I’ve come to only within the past few years. Perhaps I needed some life experience and time to reflect, but now my muse says, “write poetry.”

Do you have any poetry collections out Merril?

MDS: I don’t have a poetry book out yet, but it’s coming! I’m currently finishing up two reference books on rape. My other books are available on Amazon and other sites.

Before we get to your poem, please tell us a little bit about it. What inspired this piece?

MDS: The theme of the poetry contest was the Harlem Renaissance. I chose to write about Zora Neale Hurston because I think she was a brilliant and fascinating woman. She lied about her age (saying she was younger than she was) so that she could finish high school. Then she went on to study anthropology with Franz Boas, and she chose to do fieldwork on Afro-American folklore. She was said to have made an entrance when she entered a party, and in the photos, I’ve seen of her, she’s often wearing a hat. She definitely had a way with words, so I used some of her lines within the poem. Though she won some acclaim in her life, she did not earn wealth, and she died in poverty. Alice Walker is credited with “rediscovering” Hurston and paid to have a grave stone placed on Hurston’s unmarked grave.

Once again Merril, thanks so much for participating in our contest and sharing your heart with us. Without further ado, everyone we give you:

“Zora Neale Hurston”

by Merril D. Smith

 

She makes an entrance

(not tragically colored)

hat on head–

red, blue, black—

she sets back,

ready, life of the party,

her oyster knife sharpened

dissecting, uncovering

(rediscovering)

life

in tales of people, animals,

the divine, the devil,

people without souls

animals who talk,

eyes watching God

she writes of birds and bees

and peach blossoms in the spring,

of love, romance,

women and men

of rabid dogs

and jealousy,

she dies in poverty

almost

(not quite)

forgotten,

her soul crawls out

from its hiding place

time and distance cannot shrink

her words,

those she left behind

to flow like the sea

to meet our shores

 

©2017 Merril D. Smith


You can reach Merril at the social media links below. Go show her some love!

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Merril-D.-Smith/e/B001HOHXH6

Blog: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @merril_mds

Instagram: mdsmithnj


 

 

This poetry contest is sponsored by Yecheilyah of Literary Korner Publishing and the release of Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One). Pick up your copy of Renaissance today. Click here.