“Have you seen my skin?/My glistening black skin/My earthly brown/My moon stained yellow skin/My skin as tainted as nature/Camouflaged.”
JL Davenport – “Deal With the Devil”
To describe JL Davenport as a multi-faceted, strongly gifted artist actually understates the case. She is, in fact, a talent — poet, songwriter, singer and performer — possessed of amazing acumen and no small accomplishment.
Davenport, a self-dubbed a lyrical artist, is the author of six books and owns an enviable track record of appearing before audiences any performer worth his or her salt would kill for.
The power of JL Davenport’s poetry puts her in the same rarified realm as Sha Cage, e.g. bailey and Louis Alemayehu, her spicier bent a foray into the land of Eros, a la Pearl “Da Black Pearl” Warren. It is indeed surprising that she has yet to attract the high profile those iconic figures enjoy. In due time with deserved exposure.
She told the MSR, “I have been using my imagination and my experiences to give life to words since I was child. The majority of my poetry is inspired by my observations of the world we live in.” Accordingly, the volume, Prophetic Wake Up It’s Time To Cultivate, casts a discerning, disquieting eye of everyday life, as this excerpt from “Howls of Pain” reflects:
“Distant howls of pain, lifted by gravity/Have traveled far to greet me/To share a story unbelievable/Inexcusable/However, at this moment I am all ears.”
Reflecting on the book, she observed, “This…is my voice for social change. It questions what makes us human; it looks deep into human insensibility and destruction. This book speaks to the social issues that connect us all.”
On the difference between her published poetry and spoken word performances Davenport said, “Performing poetry is very different. It’s scary yet exciting. It’s like taking a page of poetry and turning it into film. Not everyone can do it.
“It’s not just about the words, on stage it’s about the delivery. Believe it or not, as much as the audience is looking for a great performance, we, the artists, thrive off of the audience’s reaction.” This particular artist is aware from extensive experience exactly what she’s talking about.
Davenport has appeared on both KFAI and KMOJ radio stations. She’s also as a supporting backup singer and as a solo performer at Arnellias, Blue Nile, Dakota Jazz Club, Red Sea, The Lounge and other venues throughout the Twin Cities, with such A-list headliners as Chantel Sings, Wenso Ashby and Ray Covington. You can count on one hand with a few fingers left over the number of vocalists who can make such a claim.
Asked about influences Davenport said: “It’s hard to think of strong influences — outside of life itself — when it comes to writing poetry.” She noted, though, “Poets like Rumi, Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda have been great reads.” Davenport also acknowledges that in making the transition of poet to performer, she’s been impacted by the work of Jill Scott and Gil Scot-Heron. All said, this is a presence of undeniable consequence.
Find more information about Davenport’s work here.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.