It’s quite an accomplishment to write poetry well. If you don’t think so browse through the aisle of a bookstore — one of the few that may be left in an area near you — and take agood look at just how many books you can find of either cloying drivel or pretentious pap that pass for poems.
That, in and of itself, makes Autumn Reign’s Truth Serum, Watering Seasons of My Love (Belfrey Books) a relief, penned in a sure hand that consistently engages and, at times, wholly compels. All the more noteworthy, Truth Serum is a debut collection, the first time out of the gate for a voice that already warrants close listening.
As in, “No matter the threat of thunderstorm in my sky, you have been the lightening that has illuminated my heart, I cannot always express why or what but the light has always been there shining awaiting your return… Loving you has always been cloudy on a clear day.”
Autumn Reign (AR) is a native of Boston MA. She grew up in Dorchester and attended Boston High school and Northeastern University. She moved to Minneapolis in 1997 where she has settled down and is raising a family
She is an educator, violence-prevention facilitator and community activist. She is especially interested in working with youth and their families, helping them to gain access to quality secondary education. She enjoys actively working in the community to bring awareness, of social justice issues including juvenile justice, poverty, equity in education, and incarceration rates in the U.S.
In an email interview with MSR, she reflected on her craft.
MSR: What fulfills you the greatest about using poetry as a medium?
AR: My father wrote poetry, for all of our birthday cards and taught me from a very young age about Phyllis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Nikki Giovanni. My father instilled in me that my thoughts were powerful and that I needed to be a critical thinker and [he] encouraged me to write about my feelings. I learned early that there was power in the written word and thus I think I began to write blues and narrative free-verse poetry.
MSR: When did you first become aware of your voice as a poet?
AR: I have been journaling since the age of 14 and I chose to write about anything that I witnessed, experienced or dreamed. I recognized I had a true voice when I attended Northeastern University as an Ujima Scholar and I shared “Black Roses,” my first piece, publicly without reservation, which is contained in Truth Serum. “Black Roses” is about Black men moving through life, I followed it up with “Black Man’s Hands.”
MSR: You’ve a passion for oratory as well, as can be seen on YouTube. How did that come about? Was it simply a natural progression from, as it were, the page to the stage?
AR: I entered into the middle school oratory competitions in seventh and eighth grade. It was there I learned that I had a powerful voice and I often used it to defend others in school against teachers and students. In my careers I have chosen advocacy work to speak up and for those who were unable [to speak for themselves] or less fortunate. I also have chosen to write about what I am most passionate, which is Black love. I think there is nothing more powerful than that union as it has withstood many atrocities.
MSR: How long did it take to collect Truth Serum and what went into your decisions selecting the pieces?
AR: [It] contains many truths we think but don’t say out loud in life and love. One of my favorite poems is by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We wear the Mask.” [“that grins and lies it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes…”] The content of Truth Serum comes from two other books, but I choose to compile these pieces…because if I were to leave the planet any day after submitting the manuscript, I would have left my love and poetry to touch and to heal.
MSR: How has the book been received?
AR: The book has been received very well with audiences in Minneapolis and in Boston. It is interesting that people choose to read it like a book, from cover to cover, unlike how I read a poetry book, which is by title and section. Men and women enjoy it and it has been used in domestic violence men’s groups and with students grappling with equity and equality.
MSR: Is there anything general or, for that matter, in specific that you want to impress upon readers about your craft?
AR: I hope readers will give Truth Serum a read as I dare each of us to love; more honestly and unapologetically; risk loving like you have never loved before, love like it is your last time to love.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.