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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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