Belmont Spreads the Word

Some of my fondest memories date back to when I was a college student at Belmont University. I loaded my little white Duster and drove nearly 2.5 hours north to Nashville with my CD player blasting an upbeat tune. I was a first generation college student so I had a lot of adjusting to do. Belmont was the place where I learned I had public speaking abilities. There, I met life long friends. My faith grew, and I gained connections with mentors who pushed me to become the person I am today. I traveled the world for the first time and even won my first national award. Belmont holds countless fond memories for me. Recently, they featured me in the alumni news. Check it out.

https://alumni.belmont.edu/news/436417/Chasity-Gunn-07-Performs-as-First-Laureate-of-Elgin.htm

Free book sample

National Poetry Month is right around the corner. And what better way to celebrate than by writing original poems. I have written a book, How to Create a World. The book is geared for young writers third graders and above. It’s aligned with multiple Common Core Standards. The book is perfect for the busy teacher who wants to implement poetry into the classroom but has no time to prep lesson plans. It’s also a useful tool for facilitators who run after-school programs. It’s a suitable instructional guide for homeschoolers. Lastly, it can spark creativity for the adult writer who has an interest in poetry. Try it out and let me know what you think. Happy Writing!

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Sparking Creativity

Author Robert Greene said: “Creativity is a combination of discipline and childlike spirit.”

I am amazed at the degree of creativity innately placed within children. They create the most fascinating stories and have vivid imaginations. This creativity must flamed like the fire in the background of this photograph. Sometimes life and the nature of American education can stifle the flame of a child’s creativity.

My book How to Create a World sparks a child’s creativity and gently teaches them the discipline of the writing process. Children learn how to write poems by reading nursery rhymes. The book is geared toward third graders and above. The book is kid tested and teacher improve.

Snag your copy here.

Introducing Poetry Off the Page

One of my goals as Elgin’s Poet Laureate is making poetry accessible for folks. Combining my poems with visual art is the way I am achieving this goal. Poetry doesn’t have to be confined to books tucked in shelves, out of the sight of everyday. Now, they can placed on your bedroom wall, in your kitchen, your work work cubicle or even in your classroom.

Currently, I have done two poems in this series: “Pasadena Summer” and “Ode to Dr. King.” I’ll be releasing more throughout the year. You can order your copy here.

Writing “Ode to Dr. King”

At the MLK Prayer Breakfast with Elgin City Councilwoman Tish Powell (left) and Tish Calhamer, Community Engagement Manager for Gail Borden Public Library District (right).

I was invited to perform and write an original poem for the City of Elgin’s Annual MLK Prayer Breakfast. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a leader who I deeply admire so I was honored to have the opportunity to write a poem as homage to him. It also was a bit intimidating because numerous poems have been written about him. I wanted to add something new and worthwhile to the literary conversation.

I began by gathering research focusing on primary sources: interview transcripts and his speeches. I viewed documentary films and read a couple of books. From these sources, I gathered words and phrases that resonated. I also selected a few words that reminded me of King and began doing erasures of dictionary pages of those words.

I had some traction doing erasures. It kept my creative process alive and kept me engaged with creating the poem. I even wrote another poem that created an analogy of justice and a drummer. However, I knew these poems were not the ones I was supposed to read at the Prayer Breakfast.

I continued researching and writing, but I kept drawing blanks. At this point, I was a couple of weeks from the breakfast, and I didn’t have a poem so I became frustrated and anxious. I started working on the poem early so that I could write a quality poem and have enough time to prepare to read the poem. I want on a desperate search for the first line. Usually if I have the first line of the poem, everything afterward flows.

Creative Process: Stuck

I remained stuck. I picked up a Bible and read through the book of Lamentations. It talks about sorrow, justice and suffering. I hoped to find a verse I could incorporate into the poem. Nothing. Now, it was the week of the breakfast, and I still did not have a poem. About midweek, the thought came to me to look through Isaiah. I gathered several lines from there.

Throughout this process, I kept having the image of Dr. King as a king (due to his last name) and his similarities to Jesus Christ. Both were considered prophets, hated by some and eventually killed unjustly. I noticed that King used several analogies in his speeches, and I was intrigued by the connection between a potential analogy between King and Christ. However, I knew it was a common comparison, and I didn’t want to write a cliche poem.

After much toil, I decided to go with an image that had lingered in my mind from the early days of my research: Dr. King being stabbed with a letter opener by a demented woman while he was signing books in Harlem. The stabbing left a cross on his chest. I couldn’t shake the symbolism.

Creative Process: Flow

Words began to flow. And a strange thing happened. The poem was coming out in rhyme. This is strange because I typically write in free verse. I hadn’t written with an end rhyme since my college days. The poem also came out more like a spoken word poem rather than a page poem. I infused lines from Isaiah, snippets from Dr. King’s speeches and interviews, as well as historical information. I consider “Ode to Dr. King” a found poem.

The end result was a moving poem that brought a room of nearly 200 people to their feet in a standing ovation. I’m proud of the end result, and I’m also excited about some art forms that have been awaken by writing this poem. You can get a copy of the poem here.