Earlier this week I got the chance to hear a spoken word poet by the name of Chris James. He was the speaker selected to address the winners of the 2019 Congressional Art Contest in Washington D.C..
Most of his speech was motivational and inspirational for the 433 young artists and their family members who were in attendance. I found myself drawn into this gentleman’s story as he had a very engaging way of to relating to us – his audience. I even took notes!
His message, before we were even given a sample of his poetry, was compelling and based on his own experience. As a fellow artist – and a previously impoverished, black male from a high risk family, (two of his brothers are serving lengthy jail sentences), as well as being a father at the early age of 16, he had a lot to say. He told the successful teen artists being recognized in the Congressional Auditorium in the Capitol of our nation to:
- Commit. Commit to your craft. Dedicate time to polishing and improving the talents they exhibited for this competition.
- Nourish the ground. The poet showed his “colors” with a “stolen” story here about the Chinese Bamboo Tree. He told us it is a popular story and asked if we had heard it. No one had, so he was thrilled to be the first to share the story with us. A Chinese Bamboo Tree supposedly takes five years to germinate, after which time it grows very quickly (I think he said 90 feet in one year!) If, at any time during the five year germination period, the ground where the bamboo seed is planted is not cared for with water and nourishment, tree will not grow. His message? Be focused. Choose your passion. Water it. Limit other interests. Prioritize.
At this point, his message seemed as if it was only meant for me (not my son, who is the artist, nor anyone else in the listening audience). He went on to explain how he had many interests, and up until recently was spending time on all of them. Then, he began to feel like he was spread too thin. So, he asked himself. What ties all my interests together? What are distractions to pursuing these interests? Are the distractions taking away from what makes me happy?
His advice? If the interests are distractions, cut them loose. Concentrate on what melds your interests together and make you happiest. For Chris James, it is poetry! All other areas of pursuit were discarded, and all his current activities feed his passion for his craft of poetry. This includes performance, teaching, and writing. In other words, all his time is spent doing something he loves and driving his passion to new heights. And, yes, in case you are wondering – he admits that he could earn more money doing something else – BUT, he wouldn’t love it or be as happy as he is creating a career from poetry!
3. James’s third tip was Create, Don’t Wait, Be Great! Who can argue with that?
4. Be crazily innovative! Take risks!
5. Show Up! Really! This is so important! Show up for your job, for that class, for the meeting, show up for your life – even if, on somedays (and we all have them) you don’t feel like it! Too many times we become lazy and feel like attendance does not matter! It absolutely does! Show up!
And, Chris James last tip for our young artists was this: YOU ARE ENOUGH! You are great! No one is more human than someone else. If they can “do it” so can YOU! We all have potential. Grow it and use it.
At the end, James had us, the audience, participate in a self motivating – self reassuring chant. The chant was said to our neighbor to the left, out loud, and to ourselves. “You are great! You are enough.” This chant led to James hopping around the stage performing a spoken word poem. No note cards, no prompts – just James, his rhythm, his thoughts, and his experience flowing forth to fill the room. And, so it did.
The audience in the Congressional Auditorium in the United States Capitol Building was on its feet this past Monday – for Chris James – spoken word poet extraordinaire!
For more on Chris James, check out this YouTube link: The Impact of a Poet.
And a TED talk: Overcoming the Odds and Creating a Career out of Art
Today is Poetry Friday! Although I do not offer a written poem this week, I hope you can take a minute after reading my post on a popular poet, Chris James, and click on a link to learn more about how he’s created a life around his art – the art of poetry! Thank you Buffy Silverman, Children’s Author, for hosting this week!