The last year has been a mighty journey. For those of you who have shown me kindness and support through the rises and falls, Thank You. I hope that you received my messages of thanks on social media, but I want to continue to offer a message of gratitude. I am grateful to and for all of the people who show up in my life with love for me. I love you right back.
As you may know, last summer and fall were hard. Like, real hard. My daughter grew up a bit and lived independently, and I’m so proud of her – but she’s lived with me for her entire life, which is half of mine – it’s a big change. I lost two cousins one month apart – both unexpectedly, both preventably, both much too soon. Also, I left Poetry Slam, Inc. with a literal mic drop – still hold a ton of love in my heart for so many of the beautiful people who worked alongside me for years, for the people who brought their best, and grateful for the 12-year journey and all the lessons it gave me. Most of all, I remain in gratitude – your support helped me to get through it all! I believe that our lives become quite small and focused in times of great change and difficulty – ultimately, love is all there is, all that matters. For those of you who love me, I am and will ever be grateful. For those of you who don’t love me, I invite you to begin doing so now.
It has taken some time to grieve and adjust, but I’m on it. Since my departure from Poetry Slam, Inc., I have continued to work and build (or re-build, or build and re-build) my life.
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
– I’ve been writing poems. I think some of them are pretty good, too. Let me know if you want to read some, I’ll shoot you a .pdf of my current faves. I’ve also been performing, which includes singing and rapping in my car pretty much every day.
– I’ve been teaching poetry as a tool for self-reflection, healing, and building community in a few places, including schools, libraries, community centers, prison, and a few others.
– I accepted a position with a literary center based in Denver. They offer writing workshops, retreats, and special events. I’ve known them and worked with them for a few years, and when I became available, they hired me in an effort to see what we could do together. I started a program there specifically for writers of color, which includes a fellowship and retreat.
– I’ve also been running Colorado’s Poetry Out Loud programming with them, so that’s been fun.
– I’ve been putting on for my city as the co-chair of Denver’s Cultural Affairs Commission. This is the volunteer board that essentially oversees Denver’s public art programs. If you know me, you know I do it for the culture. Since I’ve been on the commission, we’ve worked very intentionally with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusivity to help people gain access to these public funds and arts programs – and it’s working. We’ve had more diverse groups of applicants & awardees than ever before. There are some other dope things in the works on this front, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to make valuable contributions.
– I recently performed at CUPSI finals. I read a few poems about love, race, misogyny, immigration, power (I mean isn’t everything about love and power?), and students thanked me over and over for reading such necessary poems. Tragically, none of the poems I read were new – all were written years ago, and while I’m grateful for the opportunity to share them, I do wish they were no longer necessary. That being said, the work lies ahead as much as it does behind. I turned 40 this year, so that mid-life reflection is pretty real.
Hallelujah. I’m still alive. I am well loved enough to easily overcome adversity. There is still plenty to do, and plenty of us to do it.
I have no idea what’s going to happen in the world of poetry slam on a national level.
I do hope everyone is still making something. Sharing. Teaching others. We are all teachers. We are all students. I hope that we are all giving the best of ourselves to each other. Being kind to each other.
With love and gratitude,
Suzi Q. Smith