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Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 2:15 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

A Thanks + A Farewell

Hey everyone!

National Poetry Month is coming to a close, which means finals season and the end of the semester are also approaching a lot faster than I expected. As I study for finals and get ready to move on to the next chapter of my life, I wanted to take a second to reflect on my time here at Furious Flower. 

From the day that I got the Carmen R. Gillespie Fellowship up until my last time writing to you guys, I’ve had the most amazing and fulfilling time. Furious Flower has been a blessing to me in so many ways and has changed me in so many ways. My goal coming into this fellowship was to work on my poetic craft, get to meet and learn from other poets, and just be fully immersed in what Furious Flower had to offer. I can confidently say that I was able to do that and more.

I’ve got to see and talk to some very important poets, from Amber McBride to Ariana Benson and Benin Lemus. From Tim Siebles to Kei Miller and all of the poetry readings on Facebook. I even got a chance to speak with Sonya Sanchez! I learned so much about what it means to be a poet, and the unique and intimate process of writing poetry, and some new techniques that I can use in my own work. It’s been great to be able to be in the space of such amazing poets, which include Dr. Gabbin herself, to help write, revise and share my work with people that were so willing to listen to what I had to say, even if I had a little bit of a struggle saying it.

Most importantly, my appreciation for Black poetry has increased times 100. As a Black woman, seeing other Black women share their stories, culture, struggles, and more through poetry in so many different ways has inspired me to embrace my Blackness in every way that I can, which includes my poetry. I felt like being at Furious Flower has allowed me to learn so much about our history as Black people but also be in the presence of so many celebratory moments in the Black community, and learned how to take all of the experiences and share them in a beautiful way! Every day I feel like I grow to love my culture and my people more, and I want to continue to write and read and live in this feeling of celebration of my people.

Before I go, I wanted to share this last poem that I worked on during my time here. It was for a Women of Color End of the Year Celebration event that I was invited to! Women of Color hold a very special place in the hearts of Furious Flower. Carmen R. Gillespie was the founder of that club and her vision for what WOC could still live on in all of my friends who have gotten the chance to be involved in such an amazing club. Though my own membership in the club was short, I always made sure to be as involved as I could, whether it be supporting my friends in the events they were holding at WOC, or popping up and sharing my poetry with them; there’s so much potential within that space, and I wanted to share that message with them. So here’s the poem that I read, called Do Me a Favor:

Do Me a Favor

Do me a favor real quick:
Look around you. At the vastness of all of us.
All this brightness in this singular room.
Enough to power tribes and communities alike.
Unique in your own right, but placed in the right spot just before the dirt dried up.
Let your feet be planted firmly in this place
Of where it began.

Look Around You. And see growth. See accomplishments.
See a garden filled with love, drive, intelligence, change, and hope.
The same words that were kept in mind when you were planted here,
Are the same ones that bloom from the top of your crowns and radiate
through skin as deep and diverse as this world can be once we start
Allowing flowers as beautiful as this bunch, from gardens as fruitful as this one
To stretch their stems and leaves into places thought to only be reachable in the mind,
Not past the borders of this garden.

You’ve been asked to do a lot of favors.
A lot of shifting in this place by the wind that tried to uproot you,
But, just one more time, look around you. And listen to me
An observer of this garden… a flower just like you.
Don’t ever let a single one of your petals wilt.
Water each other and yourselves the same way
We’ve been doing it since the start.
And keep your roots here, so if you lose
Your way, you can reach back, to these seats, to this soil, familiar and nutrient,
And keep in mind that your stories of strength and beauty reside in spaces like these.
you just to simply have to look around you.

I want to thank Lauren Alleyne and Dr. Gabbin for being my mentors during my time at Furious Flower, and everyone within the center for welcoming me with open arms. All of the support and exposure to the world of poetry won’t be taken for granted. I’m so sad to go! But I’m even happier to have been the inaugural fellow for this amazing center, and I can’t wait to see where this fellowship goes.

And with all that being said, my name is Jordanne Alexander, and thank you so much for watching me grow at Furious Flower, and The Seed!

Sunday, April 24, 2022 at 12:05 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Poetry Prize Event

Hello! Welcome back to The Seed!

National Poetry Month has been going strong here at Furious Flower! From sharing poetry on our Instagram, to some poetry trivia, to other events that have been going on during the month, it’s really been a treat to be a part of this month! This week I wanted to talk about our Poetry Prize Event that I attended on Thursday! For those of you who don’t know about the Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers, every year Furious Flower holds a contest with a guest poet as the judge, where two people, the poetry prize winner and an honorable mentioned, are selected as winners, and are invited to JMU to share some of their work with everyone! This year’s Poetry Prize Winner and Honorable Mention, Ariana Benson and Benin Lemus, was selected by our special guest judge, Tim Seibles. All three are great poets and I was able to pull some inspiration from hearing them read and answer questions that I’ve been needing!

At this event, I got to hear some of the poems that were nominated and some other poems that both poets had written before the event, and all I’ve got to say is that these women are incredible! Both have such soft and loving poems that are also very strong and striking when you really listen to what’s being said in each poem.  I loved how there was this unintentional theme between the two, of flowers and strawberry fields, but they both had different meanings. Ariana Benson read a love poem and a poem about Black lives that really sat with me even after the event. Benin Lemus read poems about her relationship with her father and labor and where she’s from that painted such colorful images in my mind. Tim Seibles wrapped it all together by sharing some poems from his book, which was a real treat! They all talked about their own personal techniques when it comes to revising poetry, and the biggest takeaway from that discussion was that sometimes you have to sit with an idea or sit with a poem before going back to revise and change it. That might be the best way for you to reveal the true intentions of the poem and let it do what it was supposed to do.

Overall I thought it was a great experience. I told Ariana and Benin that listening to them read was enough inspiration and motivation for me to actually get back to writing my own poetry again. I’ll admit that I’ve been in a little bit of a rut, but I’ve heard so many times that it doesn’t matter how long a break is; a poet is still a poet. Hearing their poems and them talk about their poems definitely helped me and inspired me to at least start some poems and maybe come back to them. I even got to take a picture with the winners of the event! They are such talented women, and I plan on keeping in touch with them and keeping up with everything that they do!


That's all for this week, see you all next week!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at 2:05 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Sharing Poems!

Welcome back to The Seed!

It’s been such an eventful month for Furious Flower! If you’ve been tuning into our Instagram page, you’ve probably got to see so many poems being posted by people in the JMU and Harrisonburg community! It’s been really beautiful to see people tap into a creative and poetic side to themselves. Whether it’s releasing how they feel about school or work or other circumstances, or just a way to describe the things that they hold near and dear to themselves, it’s been honestly inspirational to see all the different types of poems that people can come up with. 

In the spirit of sharing poems that we might’ve kept locked away from the world, I wanted to share a poem about one of my favorite places: my shower. This poem that I plan on sharing with you guys is an ode to my shower! It sounds a little funny, but one thing that I’ve been challenging myself to do is write about the ordinary, mundane things in our lives, like making a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, or in this case, taking a shower! I tried to be as intimate when it came to describing my relationship with my shower as possible, aiming to drift away from the shower a little and maybe instead replace some of the images with a feeling or person instead. It made me step outside my comfort zone and be more descriptive than I usually am. So here it is: Ode to My Shower:

Ode to My Shower

The door to the bathroom slightly ajar
The steam from the shower pours out
The walls a glistening wet and warm
A safe space where my problems are hung up next to my towel.
The only place that I can feel myself slowly unravel,
Into song
Into laughter
Into conversation
Into tears
Into silence.
And then it’ll all melt into one
Hesitant to go, but down the drain it ventures anyways
The water hotter than the pools in my eyes,
And colder than what escapes them.
Sink into cool tile and the bench covered
In hair and conditioner and poems mixed in with
body soap. Rest my head on the shelf
That holds all the products I’d hope would cleanse me.
Spurts of water jetting into the air
A hug that burns my skin and leaves reminders of
Being closer to an escape that includes the burning sun and salty water.
I don’t usually melt into my shower like this. But today, I did.
There was no one to warm my back as I sang about my day,
Or fill me up with intangible routes of escape disguised as daydreams
Or slowly wash away the mistakes of my day even when they feel permanent
…or just gets me clean enough to move forward.
There is no greater comfort than this.

That's all for this week, tune in next week for more!


Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 3:16 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Welcome Spring!

Hey everyone, Welcome back to The Seed!

We’re now in our second week of National Poetry Month, and I’ve been really inspired by some of the poems that I’ve been seeing on social media! On Furious Flower’s Instagram page, every day a poem is posted by someone who submitted it. It’s been amazing seeing how creative the JMU community is as far as poetry is concerned; I’ve reposted a couple and even reached out to let the poets know that their work is incredible!

As I said last week, one of the things that I wanted to work on with my poetic craft is the technique and the topic of my poetry as well. Trying to break out of my own routine of writing has been challenging, but rewarding, as I’ve been able to create some really unique pieces of poetry that I think are very different from what I’m used to. Form has still been a bit of a challenge (trying different techniques has definitely led me to the conclusion that I prefer free-verse poetry over most other forms!), but I’m trying to stay consistent in trying something new.

For this week’s poem, I tried taking on the form of a sonnet, without the rhyme scheme that’s used, but keeping it to fourteen lines with a volta towards the end of the poem. Since it’s been getting warmer, and my allergies have been acting up, I decided to write something as light and airy as we get deeper into the springtime.

Dried leaves blow past her feet as she walks into the sun’s warmth,
It baths her in welcoming rays of reassurance.
You’ve made it through hell, take easy steps into the light.
Spring is making her swift stride towards us now. Home 
Is what the people who hate the cold love to call her. With 
Open arms and open hearts, she’s welcomed, representing
What’s new, what’s on the horizon. Blooming beginnings 
Slowly opening themselves up for us all. 
The birds rejoice in her return. The dullness is revived by the touch.
Her whisper a warm breeze, awakening something within us
That’s been hibernating for too long.


That’s all for this week, thank you again for tuning in!

Friday, April 4, 2022 at 3:56 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Seed!

We’ve entered April, which means we’ve entered National Poetry Month! A time for us to appreciate different poets, learn from one another, and even indulge in our own poetry. I really believe that all of us are capable of creating something beautiful, something poetic, something that should be memorable to us. After being a part of Furious Flower and immersing myself in so much Black poetry, I’ve grown an appreciation for writing my own, and plan to share what I’ve been creating all month long!

To kick us off for the month, I wanted to share a little bit of a poem that I wrote about myself last week after a seminar with Kei Miller, a poet who I’ve talked about on this blog before. I got to meet him in person and myself along with some other students were able to analyze and write some poetry with him. The big idea of the seminar was to talk about the ways that poetry can be used to describe things that we know in different ways; taking words, things, or people, and adding new definitions to them in a way that makes us think “that just makes so much sense!” The last exercise that we did for the evening was to write a little bit about our names and what it means to us. I had started it but I thought it was a really interesting way to write about myself and thought this might be a great way to start off the month. So here’s the poem that I wrote, called My Name.

My Name

My name is honestly very simple. Jord-anne.
Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing too special.
Jordanne. Like Jordan, with few extra characters.
Some like to hang on to the Jord,
Others like the way the Anne rings at the end
But I like to find a sweet spot in the middle.
Jord-Anne. Jor-danne. Jordanne.
A mixture of my mom and dad, though they’ll never admit it.
A shortcut to being a basketball player’s daughter,
Sometimes the definition of careful planning and pure chaos.
Meaning to be split into half,
and constantly be correctly joined together
A river that carries more than just prayer and best behavior
The name that rides through the air the same way love does,
And stays stuck in the mind all day like the words that slip
Off my hand and into ears like yours.
A creator in my own right.

That’s all that I have for this week! Next week I’ll talk more about poetry and some of the things going on at Furious Flower, along with another poem to keep this month rolling!

Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at 1:30 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Collegiate Summit

Welcome back to The Seed everyone!

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something, but we’ve had so much going on here over at Furious Flower! In this blog post, I wanted to talk about Furious Flower’s Collegiate Summit on March 3rd and 4th. We got to speak and work on poetry with Douglas Kearney and Amber McBride, two extremely intelligent and talented poets (if you were here last semester, you know meeting Amber Mcbride was an amazing opportunity after reading her book!). We spent time not only learning from these poets, but writing our own and sharing our talents with students, faculty, and others from different classes and universities. It was definitely a treat!

The theme for the Collegiate Summit was “Poetry that Transports”; the idea that poetry, like any other type of literature, can take us places. Poetry can be taken in different directions, almost like an endless space for movement and transportation that is dictated by the poet. In our discussion, Amber McBride and Douglans Kearney shared what they think it means for poetry to be transported, and I agreed with both replies. Amber McBride, who’s seminar was focused on folklore in poetry, talked about how transport in poetry can be equivalent to magic; how we all feel the same things or get similar reactions based on what we are reading. Things that we can’t explain but help us feel connected. Douglas Kearney described it as being transcendent; being removed from something or somewhere. He talked about how in terms of Black poetry, being transported can be ambivalent to the African Diaspora and all the ways that we as Black people have been transported physically, mentally, and figuratively. Basically, the idea that poetry, regardless of form, context, or structure, has the power to move us in ways that we can’t imagine. 

The way that poetry moves us can happen in different ways. In Douglas Kearney’s seminar, the one that I was able to attend, repetition is one of those ways. In the seminar, we talked about how repetition can be used to help remember things, like in songs such as Beyonce’s “Formation”, over 70% of the lines are repeated in some way that helps us remember the song and makes it as addictive and catchy as it is. Repetition can also be used to reiterate ideas without actually stating them. We read poems that were 14 lines that said the same thing, and with each line that we read, the deeper and darker, in some cases, the meaning behind the line would be. Repetition can also be taken up in different forms, like duplexes and bops and sonnets. Even something as simple as repeated word choice can be used to transport poetry in a physical and figurative sense. The seminar made me appreciate the use of repetition and I plan on trying to use it in my poetry in the future.

Though I wasn’t there for both days, I still had a lot of fun! From the seminar that I was in with Douglas Kearney, I wrote a duplex that I shared with others from my group. I loved hearing what everyone else wrote and how they interpreted the things that we learned, using repetition as their guide for their poem, and I think for my first swing at a duplex, I did pretty good. I definitely plan on trying to use this form more often. For some insight, a duplex poem has been referred to as a combination of a ghazal, a sonnet, and a blues poem, in terms of structure and subject. The last line of each stanza is echoed in the first line of the following, with the first line of the poem being echoed in the last line of the poem. It took a little bit of adjusting as far as structure, but in the end, I think I was able to produce something really beautiful. Here’s my duplex, When the Sun Goes Down:

When the Sun Goes Down

When the sun goes down, I'd rather be there.
To leave it behind was never the plan.

To leave it behind was never the plan,
But bringing it with me won't work either.

So what would work, if it's too heavy to bring with me?
Don't tell me nothin that involves leaving without a sound

But maybe the idea of leaving without a sound
Could be better than bearing the weight of it all?

Because I can't bare the weight of it all,
My shoulders grow sore and the sun grows farther,

The sun grows farther and my shoulders grow worn
So maybe leaving trailing pieces behind would make the weight smaller

And with each weight growing smaller, I begin to move farther,
And closer to where I'd rather be, when the sun goes down.

So that's it! I really enjoyed this event and will definitely be sure to attend more! Stay tuned to see what we have going on next!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 2:30 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Kadijah Queen Reading

Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Seed! 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about Furious Flower’s latest poetry guest, Khadijah Queen! A few days ago she gave a beautiful poetry reading on Facebook live that I got the chance to tune into, and I wanted to highlight a few things about the reading that I found really interesting and inspiring about her reading.

Firstly, Khadijah Queen is stunning! The way that she read during the event felt so effortless and flowy, very natural and soothing to me. After hearing different people read different types of poetry, I’ve come to appreciate the way that poetry is read based on the poem; tone, voice fluctuations, body language, eye contact; all of the non-verbal cues that go into reading a poem is something that I’ve come to appreciate when listening to someone read, or reading myself as I continue practicing. Though it wasn’t the main event, I did want to highlight that!

I really liked the first poem that she read from her book, “I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On”, about her running into a celebrity on her way home from work. I liked how lax it was; it felt like a friend talking to you on a FaceTime call, which is honestly a form of poetry I’d like to try. It felt a lot more personal and kept me engaged the entire time cause she had a “what happened next?” affect me the entire time. As she read more poems from her book, I really appreciated the detail in the poems about the things that her or other people in the poems were wearing and the types of guys that she ran into, like what she was wearing that made her remember she was cold, the types of cars that the guys in the poem would drive, or how she viewed her sister or her mother in the poem. It added to this world-building part of a poem that I feel like can be so important to a poem, and can put the audience right in the middle of it.

Towards the end of the reading, when people were answering questions, one of the questions that stuck out to me the most was the advice that she’d give to people who are trying to find their voice in writing, and what that entails exactly. What she said in response is something that I’ve been trying to do myself; just exploring different forms, styles, and voices within writing. Limiting yourself will help you perfect your writing as it is now, but opening yourself up to other styles and forms of poetry and writing in general can also help perfect your writing, as trying new things can then in turn into something that pushes your writing to the next level in ways that weren’t imagined before.

That’s all for this post! I hope that everyone was able to participate in Giving Day as well; all the gifts that we’ve received are truly appreciated, and give students like myself and in the future the room and freedom to explore themselves through poetry. Tune in next week to see what we have in store here at Furious Flower!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 3:30 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Black History Month

Welcome back to The Seed everyone!

I know I’m a little late, but did you think I forgot what month it is? It’s Black History Month! A time where we can come together and celebrate our community as black people, sharing our experiences, stories, struggles, and successes with one another as well as with the world. I think it’s so important that we have spaces for us to talk freely about what’s on our minds and our hearts, and for us to have a space to spread knowledge about our history as a community. No two stories are the same, and though our experiences as Black people may be spread throughout the world and differ in some places, we all have our rich history to be grounded in, regardless of where or who we are. This is also a time for us to listen to one another, whether we are within the Black community or outside of it; it's just as important to learn about Black history and respect the culture, regardless of race, just as we should do with all other groups of people, regardless of the time of year.

This week, I came with a poem for Black History Month! I’ve already read the poem at the Martin Luther King Jr. Gala that BSA and NAACP hosted in January, but I feel like it’s fitting for it to be shared during Black history month as well. I wanted this poem to feel like hope; like we are growing and moving towards something that our ancestors started, them planting the seeds within us to keep moving forward, whether it be for our own personal reasons like school or a career or discovering our ancestry, to the bigger things, like the injustices that take place every day in our country against our people. I wanted this poem to feel like hope, and light, and make the ground from under use move as well. With that being said, here’s History Written in the Trees:

History Written in the Trees

The trees in our backyards hold ancestral secrets,
gems encapsulated in the sap that drips from old branches,
broken by the feet of those trying to climb to freedom once before,
or once again.

We study the history behind the patterns that the branches make.
Lean into soft moss that grows in between and over the ridges of bark on the trees,
let it guide us past where we are now.

The history of us is written as the fine print in the leaves,
in every season,
of reconciliation and reasonable recognition of rights
that even trees at their young age can grow out of,
their roots digging deeper into ground that once was threaded lightly,
the same ground we use to march our way to what’s ours.

We owe it to the trees,
to thicken and twist and turn and grow where we stand.
We deserve to blossom…
And have a sea of trees behind us,
their lurking shadows nothing
but a reminder of where we grow from.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 2:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Welcome Back + Special Message

Welcome back to The Seed everyone!

We’ve kicked off yet another semester here at JMU, and I’m hoping that everyone had a restful and relaxing winter break, and are ready to work hard to check off yet another semester! There are a lot of things that I have in store for The Seed; more reviews on poetry books, information about Furious Flower events, and a lot of poems by yours truly. I’ve already been to a few events, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Gala hosted by BSA and NAACP, and the Poetry Jam even hosted by The Poetry Cafe, where I shared snippets of things that I’ve been working on since break. I’m planning to share those poems and more with you all very soon!

Before I get into anything else, I wanted to take a moment to address all of the things that have been happening on campus within the last few weeks. It’s definitely been a tough time for us all, and to everyone that had to witness these things happen or was close to those who have passed, I’m really sorry and I hope that you all are doing well. To everyone else who heard about everything, I hope that you’re okay too. Even though not all of us might’ve been directly impacted through association, this is still a traumatic event for all of campus, and I think it's worth reflecting on regardless of who you are. It can also be triggering for those who may have dealt with things like that in the past, family or friends, or even with yourself, and to that I just want to say I’m glad that you’re still here and continuing to move forward in life.  

As simple as it may sound, I want you all to know that you’re loved and valued and worth every single breath you take. The life that flows through us all, the experiences that each and every one of us has is our own and ours alone, so while we may not fully be able to understand each other to the fullest, we can definitely learn to be gentle and empathize with one another, not just in difficult times, but on a daily basis. Whatever feelings you carry with you are valid, and someone, whether it be a parent, friend, therapist, partner, professor, or whomever you feel is important to you, is willing to listen and help. Even me; though we may only speak to each other through a screen, I’m here to listen to what you have to say the same way you guys here what I have to say. The Cardinal House is always open, not just to house all things poetry, but also be a space to help find new outlets in writing and in poetry as well.

With that being said, I hope that everyone has a smooth and successful semester! Please don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, anyone, if you’re having difficulty, whether it be with classes, relationships, or something more personal; there’s always someone out there to support you. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 at 1:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Happy Holidays from Furious Flower!

Welcome Back to The Seed Everyone!

We’ve finally made it to Winter Break! I hope everyone’s exams went well and are now basking in this break that we have before entering the next semester! I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on the semester that I’ve had with Furious Flower!

Since working with Furious Flower in August, I’ve been given so many opportunities to meet new people and experience poetry in a new light. From being present for building renaming, to reading books that are highly regarded, to attending poetry readings and immersing myself in different perspectives of poetry, I’ve learned a lot! I think one of my biggest takeaways is there is never an end when it comes to growing and developing your craft. It takes consistency and research and a general passion and love for what you’re doing. I’ve seen what it looks like to put your all into poetry and all that goes into it, and I’ve been working to do the same in my own work. 

I’ve done a lot of talking about different poets and their crafts, but I think it’s time I showcase what I can do as well! After all, the point of me being here besides learning is to be able to share my work as well. I want to share a poem that I wrote a while ago, for a poetry class that I took a year ago. It’s one of my favorite poems that I’ve ever written, inspired by the Furious Flower Facebook Poetry Readings that I saw last year. There was a lot of discussion surrounding Legacy and what it means, especially when it comes to the Black community. I wanted to take that into my own hands and write a poem about what I think my own legacy would look and feel like. So, I wrote “The Garden for My Daughter”.

My daughter came to the garden I made for her today.

She’s been worried about it lately,

Skeptical about the fruits and vegetables I planted for her, so she’d never run out of food,

Not knowing if they were on the verge of rotting from her absence.

She worried about the lilacs and lavenders I planted for her because I thought she’d like them,

Hoping they weren’t wilting from the lack of attention she’s given them.

She was especially concerned about the mirror I put in the garden.

She worried that maybe someone stole her reflection and ran away with it,

Or maybe it wept because it couldn’t be a well of knowledge for her, cracking under pressure.

But, when she arrived, the path she ran barefoot through as a little kid,

Worn from the elements, was still there. So were the flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

And when she looked in the mirror, she saw me looking back at her.

She smirked, tears glistening in her eyes. Gently she touched the mirror and said:

“Thank you for this garden you made for me mommy. I wish you could see it.”


So, that’s it! I hope everyone has a restful and wonderful break!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at 4:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Kei Miller Reading

Welcome back to The Seed everyone!

In this post, I’ll be wrapping up Furious Flower’s Facebook Live Reading Series that has been going on for the past month or so. I’m honestly kind of sad that it’s coming to an end but I’m also grateful to be able to witness and talk about all of the things that have happened in these readings, and I think that Kei Miller’s reading was a great way to close off this year’s series of Facebook readings!

Kei Miller read a number of poems from his poetry book in Nearby Bushes, and my two favorite poems from that collection were 'Here where Blossoms the Night’ and ‘Here', because out of all of the poems these two were the most imaginative to me. which I think was an interesting take on some of the events and stories that happened in Jamaica that he explained to give context to each poem he read. I love poems that allow me to explore different cultures for what they are and all that they include. For example, I love how in the beginning of the reading Kei Miller took the time to explain different phrases that are used throughout his work. In Nearby Bushes is a Jamaican phrase that is associated with literal bushes that are associated with violence and history, to which in later poems these acts of violence are portrayed. I thought putting it was a great introduction poem that put us in the mood of what to expect in terms of the rest of the poetry book. Poems like the ones that Kei Miller read are, I feel, a sneak peek into not only the world that he created in the poetry collection, but who he is as a person; it's interesting to learn more through poetry about different people and how close they hold their cultures to their hearts and express that love in different ways.

I think the biggest takeaway from these Facebook Live Readings is that poetry isn’t just words put on paper– it's alive; a living breathing embodiment of us that we choose to share. There were so many topics that were covered in each reading, from ancestry to legacy, to grief and healing, stories passed down from generations, and stories that live in us to this day that we use to push the pen forward. Each of the four poets that I got to read up on and experience in the realm of poetry really added something more to my poetry toolbox that I can use in my own work (that, yes, I will be sharing with you all!). I want my work to be more than just writing out how I feel and how I experience the world; I want it to be rich with history, with love and loss, with research and scholarly intentions put into the words that I choose to share. I think that this poetry reading series was a great way to get to know more about not only Black poetry but the Black experience and how unique each of our experiences as Black people is.

I’m honestly sad to see the reading series come to an end for this year, but am so glad that I got to experience it and share it with you all! In the next post, I plan on talking about a poetry book that I’ve been reading and sharing how I felt about it. In the near future, I also plan on sharing some of my own work, and trust me I have a lot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 12:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Jennifer Bartell Reading

Welcome back to The Seed, everyone!

This week, I’m going to be continuing our Facebook Live Reading series with our next poet, Jennifer Bartell. Technical difficulties and all, this was yet another amazing reading with great pieces of poetry and a beautiful voice to match the work. As I watch these poetry readings, I’m learning about different ways that poems are written and read, and how all the little things that encompass creating poetry helps to bring the words that we write to life.

A recurring thing that I’m seeing among all the poets I’ve tuned into so far for this year’s poetry readings are themes surrounding ancestry. Both Erica Hunt and Aurielle Marie included poems representing their hometowns, the people closest to them, and those who are still connected spiritually. Jennifer Bartell continues this conversation of ancestry with a collection of poems from her unreleased book Travelling Mercy, which I learned means “Safe travels” from where she’s from. I thought the book concept was so interesting: we are time traveling through the past, present, and future through the narrator’s perspective. Aside from traveling through time, we are traveling through emotions like grief, and celebration of life that came before and after us. Poems like Three Months, where one of the lines was “My mother’s memories are in my placenta, passing nourishment to you”, or Honoring the Ancestors, lines like “Her always comes back even when I leave myself, her comes back”. Even in Mudskipper, which has my favorite line from this entire reading: “I am a stone at the bottom of a woman-built lake”; it’s empowering, hearing poems about how we are still connected to our mothers and fathers, grandparents, great grandparents, through life experiences like having children or talking to others about the past. They breathe life into us in ways we never can imagine. I think the layout of her book was brilliant, the incorporation of Geechee culture and her family and neighbors added a lot of depth to these poems.

Jennifer also went through some poems that she wrote throughout quarantine back in 2020, and I think they all represent how everyone was feeling. My personal favorite was Self Care Is Political Warfare. Just the title is enough for me! I feel like more than anything throughout the pandemic, we have been paying more attention to self-care and taking time for ourselves, but sometimes it seemed as if it was at a certain cost; either productivity, the liveliness of our previous lives, or even our mental health, because let’s face it, self-care is not always pretty, especially when living through all of the issues that were happening outside of our homes, with issues such as Black Lives Matter and addressing how we move forward from COVID 19. I think the poems that came out of the pandemic are some of the most moving poems of our time, and the ones that were read during this reading are perfect examples of that.

I’m loving these Facebook live readings! The last one coming up on Nov. 12 is Kei Miller! I’ve taken a lot of inspiration to use in my writing that I hope to share with you all soon; I want to

make sure that on this blog I’m not just reflecting on what I’m learning here at Furious Flower, but also contributing in building the legacy that continues to grow every day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 at 4:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Aurielle Marie Reading

Welcome back to the Seed! Before we dive into our topic for this week, I wanted to talk about an opportunity I got to take part in last week that I’m really proud of! Furious Flower and the JMU Alumni Association worked together to create a HOMEcoming Poetry Jam, and I was the host for the evening! It was my first emcee gig, and I had a great time. The poetry jam was a space for poets from around campus and the JMU community to get together to share the different meanings of “home,” and have insightful conversations with one another about everyone’s unique poetic process, inspirations, and more. We even had one of the poets, a graduate student in the music department, sing a couple of songs for us! It was an all-around good time with good people and, of course, good poems.

Now, getting back on topic: This week I watched Aurielle Marie’s Facebook Poetry reading, and all of her work is so powerful! I love the amount of passion and emotion that she puts into reading all of her poems-- the expressions, the emphasis, all of the things that make poems come to life when they are read is what I enjoyed most about her poetry reading. With each poem, I was clinging to every single word. Aurielle then went on to read poems from her book, GumboYa Ya, and I thought they were powerful! Each poem had distinct emotions associated with it, different topics, and yet they still all flowed together like a story. I can’t even pick a favorite poem from her reading; all of the poems she read were so dynamic and complex and had different tones and subjects to them. Notes and Acknowledgments, the first poem she read, grabbed my attention with the way the poem interacted directly with the reader. “I intend to steal, reader, from you, your comfort and gift it to a Black girl who broke her hot comb on the morning’s rough edge.” Are you kidding me?! That line stuck with me for the entirety of the reading! There were so many other lines that stuck out to me; some were political, some were personal, and some almost moved me to tears (the poem she wrote about her brother who passed really tugged at my heartstrings!). It was a great experience altogether.

I also enjoyed the Q&A portion of the reading and hearing about how she is still constantly working on her craft and defining what her craft entails. I loved the fact that she touched on how Black poetics is seen from the outside world as something that is beautiful or moving, which it is, but not seen as scholarly work. There is such richness in our history and the way that we tell our stories, that it sometimes gets overlooked that we have to do the work and research to build our own forms of poetry that fit with our own story. Her poem No Name In The Street is a great example of how the poem itself is beautiful and the history and personal experience wrapped in each word helps to better bring out the poetic craft it takes to make such a beautiful poem. The main takeaway that I got from her reading was to appreciate Black poetics for the way the words were put together and the thought and history that’s put behind the work as well. They both go hand in hand to create our legacy as black poets within our own community. These are more than just poems; these are extensions of our ancestors that we are creating. A legacy that will continue to be built as more Black poets bring their work and history to light.

Another amazing reading that I got the chance to tune into! I can’t wait for the next reading this Friday, October 29th with the third poet, Jennifer Bartell!  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 2:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Me (Moth) Book Review

Welcome back to The Seed! This week, I want to take some time and talk about poetry in a verse book that I was recommended to read at the start of my fellowship called Me (Moth), written by Amber McBride. Dr. Gabbin handed the book to me as a way to not only introduce me to Furious Flower, but also to show me what can come out of working on my craft, and how far hard work and practice can take me. I have to say I think this is one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year!

To keep the description brief (don’t want to spoil this for anyone!), the book is about a girl named Moth, who ventures through life with a boy named Sani. They are both in search of something to ground themselves after being uprooted from their sense of self. It’s a common thing a lot of people go through; something traumatic happens and it seems like everything you know about the world and even yourself seems so removed. We are constantly rebuilding ourselves in hope to feel grounded in where we stand, and this book takes us through that journey of self-discovery over and over again. Each poem was a testimony of a step forward, or backward, in the journey of self-discovery.

I felt like I was put into a very vulnerable yet comforting place with each poem. The way they were all strung together to create the story that moved so fluidly through each character left me with so many emotions by the end of it. The one that stood out to me was the feeling of hope; something that once lost can always be found in the newer versions of ourselves, and like Moth and Sani, may require having to really dig to find it.

I think the most interesting thing that struck me about the book was the fact that the main character’s name was moth; why a moth? I asked myself many times as I read this book. Butterflies are just as useful for a metaphor to use, and moths are sometimes seen more as a bother than something beautiful; but I think that’s exactly it. What we think about moths is so different than what they really are, and that same energy is carried in the way that Moth moves and grows and continues to try and plant herself in comforting grounds in this book. One of my favorite lines in the book talked about this: 

Before my grandfather died he taught me

that a lost of what we think we know

about moths is as flimsy as their delicate wings

that sprinkle

dust and death like whispered omens.

Grandfather used to say, there are no omens, just balance.

Balance is what brings about magic.

She is magic. The same process that moths go through and that Moth is going through is filled with hope for balance, and sprinkles of magic too.

Last week we got word that Amber McBride’s book Me (Moth) has been nominated as one of the finalists for the National Book Award, which is a great accomplishment especially since this is her first work! She provides another example for me to look up to and follow; witnessing all these successful Black poets sharing their gifts to the world pushes me to do the same. It’s such a full-circle moment, too; being handed off such an amazing book, and saying to myself that this book needs to be recognized and shared.

 Congratulations to Amber McBride on being a finalist as well as sharing such beautiful work with us. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books! I’m also hoping to read more poetry books and talking about them more on the blog as well; this was an excellent read and had me pulled in with every word that I read, and I hope to keep up that momentum with the next book I have lined up to read.

Monday, October 11, 2021 at 12:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Erica Hunt Reading

Welcome Back! 

I think it’s time we get more into the main topic of this blog: Poetry! If nothing else, I wanted this fellowship and to work with Furious Flower to continue to develop my craft as a poet, looking to other powerful Black poets around me as a source of inspiration and motivation to maintain the momentum that we as Black poets and writers have been using to create some really fire works of art. This past weekend, I tuned in to Erica Hunt’s poetry reading for the Furious Flower Facebook Live Reading Series, and I doubt I’ll even be able to fully encompass the power and movement that I felt experiencing her work in this one blog post!

One of the first things that I picked up and resonated with in her reading was the fact that she has so many journals filled with poetry, whether it be reading or writing them, 52 years-worth! It’s really a testimony to the amount of time that is spent nurturing, practicing, and living in poetry, constantly. Poetry is an on-going learning and living process, and I’m learning that every single day. I myself have plenty of Google Docs and journals filled with stories and poems, from when I was in middle school even, that I go back to. 

There were a lot of topics that were touched on in her reading, but the one that stuck out to me the most was about ancestry, and “nurturing the voices of the past and connecting them to the present”. I think that’s what Black poetry is really built on; we are creating these “sanctuaries” and “sacred spaces”, as Erica Hunt put it in her reading, to continue to nurture the voices of the past to heal the ones of the present, and give a gentle push to the voices of the future to go beyond what we are now. Erica Hunt said it beautifully, “…those long gone and those recently gone, but how we form a continuity with those folks, and how they in some ways stay with us. Always. We carry them forward into the future they dreamt about.”

One of my favorite poems she read during her reading was “Broken English” from her book Jump the Clock. The way she read the poem, repeating words, stuttering and tripping over others, like a struggle to get an idea and feeling out, mixed with the amount of expression and energy put into each line that was written was a performance in itself. Erica ended her reading by saying this: “You can do a kind of thinking you can’t do in ordinary language. The thinking you do in poetry allows you to make connections between things that are not connected in ordinary discourse. Poetry, I believe, is an indispensable tool to the ways that we organize the world now.” I completely agree. Poems are thought experiments, ways to connect us to where we were, are and are headed. Poems like “Broken English” are perfect examples of such ideas--connection, to what was, what is, and what will be.

Her reading was excellent, and made me look forward to the readings to come: Mark your calendars for Aurielle Marie on October 15th!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 at 3:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander 

Building Rededication

Welcome back to The Seed!

This past Friday, JMU held a building rededication event, changing the names of three infamous buildings that sit on main campus right in front of the quad. These buildings hold significant value to the rich history of JMU, but the renaming of the buildings is a perfect example of how we as a university, community, and country are continuing to push the pen forward, making positive change in areas that are rooted in injustice and inequality.

Our very own Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Furious Flower founder, and Executive Director, who has served over 35 years here at JMU, was honored, as one of the buildings has now been renamed Gabbin Hall after her and her husband, Dr. Alexander L. Gabbin, who has also been guiding students and faculty for over 35 years. They both have done so much on the campus of JMU, in their community, and around the world. I personally have been getting to know Dr. Gabbin through my Furious Flower experience, and I can say that it's really an inspiration to be in her presence and learn from her not only as a poet, but as a young Black woman who is trying to make her mark here on campus and in the world. The work that she has done and continues to do on a daily basis makes me feel like I deserve a place on this campus, I can take up space in areas that I see less of myself, and I can shine just as bright as everyone else.

I was one of the many supporters who got to watch President Alger and others speak about the Gabbins and to really hear the impact that they have had on the students and faculty here at JMU. In the greater scheme of things, it's even better to fully understand the impact that Black people have had on this campus. I’ve been able to hear different stories from Dr. Gabbin, and others about how they came across instances, big and small, of aggression and how they continued to speak up, speak out, and pave the way for everyone else who followed in their footsteps. As a Black student, I’m not sure where we’d be without these great examples of love and light in a world still shadowed in darkness.

Congratulations again, Drs. Joanne and Alexander Gabbin! We are so proud of you and thank you both for everything you have done on campus and outside of the purple mountains that encompass it. Your work and dedication will never be forgotten, as students like me continue to walk into these newly renamed buildings, knowing that we too belong at JMU, and are inspired to move in a direction that will create a more diverse, compassionate, and just campus and world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at 12:00 PM | By Jordanne Alexander

Welcome to The Seed!

Hey guys! Welcome to The Seed! So glad to have you here. I'm Jordanne, the inaugural Carmen R. Gillespie fellow here at Furious Flower, and I couldn’t be more excited to share my experiences, thoughts and adventures with this community here at JMU!

So, I feel as though the best way to start off this blog is to formally introduce myself. My name is Jordanne Alexander, I’m a computer science major and minoring in creative writing here at JMU. I’m from Richmond, Virginia and have stayed there my entire life up until freshman year, when I moved up to Harrisonburg. I’ve been in clubs like Women of Color and Women in Technology, BSA, and others. I love writing code for different projects, practicing working with networks, learning about cyber security, and of course, writing plenty of poems and short stories that help me not just in classes, but get me through life in general. I’m in love with the idea of continuously growing and shaping my craft as a writer into something that can be useful in both the technology field and the creative writing world.

The difference between the writing code and writing poems isn’t actually that astonishingly huge from where I sit. I spend my days in labs on campus writing lines of codes, configuring networks, decrypting ciphers, and building things that could better benefit the school in general as well as adding to my continuously growing skills list. But it’s funny to think that what I do in computer science is exactly what I do in creative writing and the Furious Flower Poetry center. I spend time crafting poems, expanding my knowledge on the arts, decrypting other people’s work to better understand them, and building poems, stories, reviews, and a space that could better benefit those who are interested in poetry and other forms of writing as well. Two completely different paths that somehow always beautifully merge into one (tech skills + writing skills = The Seed).

You’re probably wondering, okay, great the first fellow has a blog! But what does that look like? What’s the plan? 

You’ll be accompanying me on my journey of artistic self-discovery; sometimes I’ll share my own poems, other times I’ll review other people’s poems or books that I find meaningful to me, and hopefully both will move you. I’ll be of course giving updates on Furious Flower readings and events that you should know about. I might even ask for poem submissions to share your work with the world! All in all, this will just be a space to get to know about Furious Flower and myself throughout the entirety of the year.

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