A TIME TO WRITE
Two things have always been constant in my life: my faith and my poetry. With the exception of a Christmas party at work in the mid 90's and online poetry group in the early 2000's, church was the only place I shared my poetry.
In 2005 a dear friend of mine (Sue White), who happened to be the Program Director of a transitional home for HIV+ homeless women, asked me if I would come read poetry to the residents during one of their group sessions. I quickly declined.
The next year, 2006, when she asked me again, I had a change of heart. Mostly because of how much my friend believed in me. She would say things like, “You can do it. Your poetry heals. They’ll love you.” I had written her wedding poem and her confidence in me was stronger than my own. I finally said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
To say that I was terrified is an understatement. At the time, all I had was a common knowledge of HIV/Aids and even less knowledge about homelessness. I felt very inadequate. But then I remembered everything that poetry had been to me, and its benefits to mankind throughout history. From poetic Psalms, to Shakespeare, to the Early American Poets, to the Harlem Renaissance, to the Beat Poets of the 60’s, to the influence poetry had on the birth of rap and hip hop, to the powerful Spoken Word Artists of the new millennium - poetry has inspires people of all ages and all backgrounds.
With all of this in mind, I got ready for my first poetry reading outside of the church. This was four years before I published my first book of poetry, so at the time, all of my poems were typed and categorized by subject into 3-ring binders. I grabbed one of the binders and headed out. When the reading was over, I was on cloud nine. I remember whispering a little prayer right there in my car on a little side street in South Philadelphia, “Lord, if I could this every day for a living, I would. Lord, I would even do it for free!”
That was the beginning of me connecting my gift of poetry with volunteering for community service and I have never looked back. I volunteered at that facility until 2008, and after that, I looked for a new organization to work with each year. I still accept engagements within the church but I am always careful to carve out some time for poetry readings in the community as well. Thank God I never have to sacrifice one for the other.
I am forever grateful to my friend for allowing God to use her to bring me in to her facility. It was the push I needed to launch out into the deep, to go beyond the four walls of the church, and to truly, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). I just happen to do that through poetry.
Patricia Poetricia Middleton