Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Introducing Grace Ocasio: Poet and Performer- Part I

Congratulations to Melodye Shore who won a copy of Linda Phillips' book, CRAZY.
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For the next two weeks I welcome North Carolina poet Grace Ocasio, to my blog. Today you will read about why she writes in a poetic style and will be treated to a selection from her recently released book, The Speed of Our Lives (BlazeVOX Books) Next week you'll hear about her marketing plan, what she is working on next, and have the opportunity to win a copy of her book. 

Take it away, Grace!

CarolWhy poetry?  

GracePoetry is the medium I’ve always written in, ever since I was fourteen years old and a regional and national participant within the poetry field of the NAACP-sponsored program, the Afro-Academic, Cultural,Technological and Scientific Olympics.  Shortly before I began writing poetry in 1979, I listened to Gil Scott-Heron’s album, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  As a result, I started tinkering with the English language.  Scott-Heron inspired me to write in a conversational style very different from what I was learning in my eighth grade English class!  I will always be indebted to him for instilling in me the desire to write poetry.

Carol: It's great that positive experiences in your high school years laid the ground work for your present accomplishments. What was the specific inspiration for The Speed of Our Lives

Grace:   I knew that I wanted to write a poetry collection that would contain a poem for everyone.  I had concluded that my poetry chapbook, Hollerin from This Shack (Ahadada Books, 2009), was a bit dark, a bit pessimistic regarding humanity.  So I wanted to lighten up somewhat. I wanted to pull people in who might not ordinarily read poetry and still tackle topics that were important to me.  

Carol: What links the poems together?

Grace: The poems are loosely linked: the first section is about famous women;  the second section is autobiographical, regarding my varied experiences in my twenties, thirties, and early forties; the third section focuses on famous men and some nature poems; and the fourth section is primarily about black men, some famous, some not-so-famous.
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Here is one of Grace's poems, Ars Poetica, from the second section of the book called, She Revolutionary. I think many of you will resonate with the sentiments she expresses in it.

They laughed when I asked
for pancetta,
those grocery store clerks.

I don’t care.
It’s better to be chic
than to lie

in some bland corner
of a room,
wilting and frumpy.

What do I care
for the woman
who never dares to wear

a houndstooth jacket?
It’s up to us to set
the speed of our lives.

Audrey, for instance,
could dazzle
simply by placing

an ordinary swatch
against her skin:
chiffon, silk, organza.

To the nay-sayers I say
if you choose to live
like toads why should I care?

It would have been easier
to ask for Italian bacon.
But isn’t it better

to be swift than rushed?
Better to be svelte than thin?
Better to seek than to settle?
(first appeared in Rattle, Summer 2009, special issue: Tribute to African American Poets)

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Join us next week for a chance to win a copy of The Speed of Our Lives.  

20 comments:

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Carol, thanks for sharing the work of a local poet, and Grace, I enjoyed reading your poetry!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Such a fun poem! Thanks for sharing and I'll be back next week.339

Glenda Blaisdell-Buck said...

Thanks for introducing me to Grace Ocasio. This poem did resonate with me. Looking forward to reading more of her work and hearing more from her in your next blog.

Barbara Younger said...

I love the poem too. Makes me want to hop off the couch and step into action!

Rosi said...

Terrific poem. I will have to check out her book. It sounds great. Thanks for posting this here. I'll be back!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi, linda, and Joyce. Yes, Grace's poem does resonate with us!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Glenda and Barbara. I'm checking email for the first time in our rental home in Greenville. FUn to unpack and find places for all our stuff!

Anna E. G. said...

While I do not write poetry, I definitely appreciate it. Thanks for sharing another interesting author with us, I look forward to reading more of her work in the future! :)

kathleenburkinshaw said...

Carol, I so enjoyed reading your post about Grace Ocasio. I recently had the pleasure of being in a writing workshop(taught by Lisa Kline) with her. We had a chance to critique each other's rough drafts(she also has talent in the MG novel genre as well). What a great poem!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Kathleen and Anna. I'm sure Grace will appreciate your comments.

.Grace Ocasio said...

Thanks, very much, Linda! Looking forward to reading your book!

.Grace Ocasio said...

Thanks so much Joyce, for your encouraging feedback!

.Grace Ocasio said...

Dear Glenda,

I'm glad the poem did resonate with you. Thanks so much for your support!

Cheers,
Grace

.Grace Ocasio said...

Thanks, Barbara, for your kind words!

Cheers,
Grace

.Grace Ocasio said...

Thanks so much, Rosi! I'm glad you liked the poem.

Cheers,
Grace

.Grace Ocasio said...

Thanks so much, Anna, for your encouraging words!

Cheers,
Grace

.Grace Ocasio said...

Hi Kathleen,

So neat to hook up again with you here! Thanks for your support here and in Lisa Kline's workshop.

Cheers,
Grace

Linda A. said...

Grace,
Great voice! I was pulled right in. Thanks for sharing!

Good interview ladies.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Thanks for introducing Grace to us.
Poetry reaches the depths of our souls.

Celebrate you.
Celebrate Grace.
Celebrate poetry.
Never Give Up
Joan

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joan!