Concentrated writer explores intersectionality and how to create wholeness through poetry.
I have grown tired of sweeping my broken pieces under the rug. Not even looking at them long enough to count how many there were. Completely throwing away the idea that there could be a chance of anything being salvageable. Rather move onto something new than to face what broke me in the first place. A Defense mechanism and avoidance that I am sure many others have experienced as well. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until those pieces pile up and you find yourself tripping over things you believed weren’t there anymore. And in that moment, is the realization that it is time to clean and fully heal. Kansas City writer, Sheri Hall, breaks this down and demonstrates how to rebuild oneself through her wonderful poetry and work.
From the opening of my interview with Sheri Hall, the excitement that came through the virtual call was apparent. Such joy was expressed as she tells me of her journey into writing and the places her art has taken her. Hall grew up in Kansas City, MO as an only child which left her plenty of opportunity begin using and growing her imagination and talent. Although she participated as a student-athlete, playing volleyball at East High School, there were not any concentrated classes for creative writing. She later found that church was the place where she could pull art from. Learning the audience and seeing the importance of her work as she witnessed the healing properties poetry carried.
Hall has shared her talents all over the city from church events, countless events and showcases on historic 18th and Vine to receiving awards for her poetry such as for the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist in 2019. Also winning ‘Poet of the Year’ in 2018 for the Kansas City Poetry awards, adding to the already impressive list of many others awards prior. This led to questions around her creative process. The poet stated that one of her key pieces was her experimental poem structure. “I have this question and I’m curious”, hall states. A distinct starting point in exploration and creation, one that initiates the connection between the artist and the audience. “There’s certain things that happen on the page. When you read, you have a choice to embrace them the way that they fit you.”, She shares.
With Hall’s knack of writing originally set her on the path to become a lawyer. A series of life events caused things to change course. What was not lost in transition was her approach to activism and the community nurturing she has been able to provide by embracing her artistry. One of the biggest Influences for Hall was the loss of her grandfather, expressing that poetry was a way to live to live after traumatic events. I instantly remembered my own reasons for falling back in love with writing. The traumatic event of losing my father 5 years ago. I can only imagine how much more quickly I could have healed had I found the intention behind my writing sooner as Hall did.
In terms of writing Hall makes an eye-opening stance for me as she speaks about the importance of editing. “Editing is part of the intentional work that needs to be done. It is a therapeutic process. You figure out what you’re leaving in or pulling out.”, she states freely. In her multiple roles such as activist, model, minister, sociologist, technical and artistic writing show the beautiful results that come from mindful and intentional editing for yourself. The respect she demands in her endeavors moves across mediums and pours significantly into other artists. She shares her knowledge of how we can nurture artists as a career and when and how to say no to non-paying performances or other engagements. “Saying no can set the next person to be paid”, Hall speaks. A reminder that actively claiming and living our self-worth doesn’t just help us individually but informs those following, thus creating a greater appreciation and respect for the writing artistry as a whole.
In extension of her practice, Hall dedicates herself to assisting and inspiring others to use their own words to work through troubling events. Upon reviewing the writing services that she offers. The one that stood out was the 2016 workbook/workshop titled, Writing Wrongs: Writing to Heal. Due to securing a grant early on, Hall was able to offer the workshop for free initially. She emphases that through this work, it “gave people permission to emote and be angry”. This gave participants a structured outlet to truly identify and work through those misplaced and/or confusing feelings one deals with when living through traumatic events. It’s easy to understand the necessity of releasing old wounds onto the pages as a visual and effective way to reflect.
We see more of this in Hall’s published poetry and chapbooks. Particularly her best seller and special edition of Black Girl Shattered. The work features topics ranging from police brutality, thoughts on abandonment, respect, body appreciation, and most mindfully poetry inspired by and for her son. She pushes the concept of being “shattered” as the springboard to increasing one’s personal value. “We are valuable as healed vessels.”, she stressed. The conciseness of those words is worth mulling over for yourself. The poems that spoke to my own journey were, “Own it II”, “Transcend”, and “The Potter”. What hit me the hardest in brutal honesty was a few stanzas from the poem, “Ellipses”.
“Ellipses” “Yet you try to cut your narrative short Attempt to rewrite yourself into an elegy Snort your lines Rearrange your free verse with self-hatred and pity Binge drink into a tragedy Making your pain a comedy of errors You become your own abusive relationship And made self-loathing a run-on sentence" (Hall, 110-111)
The most critical take away from Sheri Hall’s energy and expertise is that editing is not just for our written pieces but for our personal lives. Our story is constantly unfolding, transforming, growing, and changing directions. There is power in acknowledging ourselves in whatever current phase of our lives we are in before stepping into the next. Only we can give ourselves the grace that is needed to move forward. We exude a personal bravery by identifying and shedding what no longer is working or holding us back. The release is a strategic move that must happen to allow the space needed for healing and building new and greater than the versions we were before.
Join us next week for our upcoming artist review: Lincoln T. Beauchamp