National Poetry Month’s Feature: Poet LP Kersey
Poet’s Bio: LP Kersey is an avid runner, foodie, comic fan, nature lover, and proud mother of four free spirited small humans. She is the Founding Editor of Obsidian Pen Publishing, a boutique publishing company based in the DC metro area. In addition to serving as President of the Prince George’s County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association and Submissions Editor at Afrocentric Books, she is the host and curator of the monthly reading series, The Literary Cypher.
She is a former contributor for Queen Mother Magazine and her work has appeared in Motherwell Magazine, Artemis, Kaleidoscope, …And I Thought, and others. She hopes to publish her first series of short stories, The Heaux Phase and a poetry chapbook this year. Outside of her love of literature, she is a community birthworker/doula, and certified breastfeeding counselor and advocate, who is passionate about women’s health, rights, and birthing equality in the black community.
LP can be found @maatmama81 and @obsidianpen7 on IG. For The Literary Cypher, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/321037492336487.
Deliah Lawrence: What inspired you to be a poet?
LP Kersey: I’ve written since I was a young girl living in Fuquay Varina, NC. There was always something to write about, from the deep woods that surrounded my home, to Carolina culture, family, and the beauty (and sometimes ugly) of the south. I wrote about it all.
The more poetry I read, I realized that there was no one way to write poetry and it didn’t always have to rhyme. There were no limits and when it came to this form of self-expression, the possibilities were endless. Inspiration can come from anywhere, you just have to see it, and live it.
Traumatic experiences made poetry become a form of therapy and a need, making me write even more. So you could say, life inspired me to be a poet.
DL: If you were hosting a dinner party, which three poets would be your dream guests and why?
LP: Wow. I can think of many but since I can only choose three: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and Audre Lorde. I am interested to know their thoughts on current events, most memorable life changing events, and what works of theirs are their faves. I think the conversation would be amazing. The intellect and creative genius in the room would be as savory as the food I’d serve. I’d make sure to bring my A game.
DL: What tips would you give to aspiring poets?
LP: Tips I’d give aspiring poets…first, find your tribe. Having a great network and being in community with other writers/poets is imperative. It has helped me overcome fears, given me confidence, and connected me to some amazing people, organizations, and opportunities. Second, take a class or workshop. As a writer who didn’t go to school for writing, I definitely needed direction and instruction to refine my work. Even if writing isn’t your full-time gig, give your craft adequate attention, and you’ll see improvement in the quality of your work. Lastly, write. It seems like a given, but sometimes life gets in the way. When it does, write about it.
DL: In celebration of National Poetry Month, can you share with us a few of your poems?
LP: Here is one of my faves, an ode to womanhood, inspired by “the goddess” poems by Teri Cross Davis, and one that reminds me of home.
Praise poem to womanhood: Goddess of Womanhood (she/her)
This poem be about the goddess
The goddess I am,
The goddess that is She. Her. Hers.
From the guttural trenches of the womb,
Spit, pushed, pulled, dragged,
Emerging from herself, birthing a new her.
Warm, pure soul, clothed in soft skin,
Unaware of how precarious this life can be.
Even as She rested in sweet innocence,
The dark clouds of patriarchy loom ominously,
Peeking into her cradle,
Ready to consume, devalue, depreciate, exploit, objectify,
And drown out her light.
But I teach, and She is a fast learner
I instructed her early on, me to know how to harden every soft line,
Turning every delicate contour to jagged fierceness,
As She sat on church pews, short Vaseline oiled legs swinging in angst,
Soaking up expectations of how to be a good church girl,
A good godly woman,
I whispered sweet somethings of who god is,
In hopes that one day, she’d come to recognize herself as Goddess.
Growing into rejection of knowing her so-called place,
And staying there in so-called ladylikeness,
I trained her to curse it all. We don’t succumb,
Whatever we want. We. She. Her.
Constant and enduring as an evergreen,
I have always been here, baby girl, Sis
Fueling the consciousness of Her, the collective divine feminine.
For the She called tomboy after getting those Mary Janes dusty,
Sweating out her freshly hot comb straightened hair, running with the boys, wrinkling the frills of her new dress, and skinning those cocoa buttered knees on church parking lot gravel,
Who would rather wear Jordans and oversized hoodies than heels and skirts,
Those same boys She played with as a child, now calling her a dike because She can hoop Better and refuses to f*** them.
They vowed to make her straight, because of course,
Why would a girl want another girl, when She can have a man? They asked.
But I gave Her the power to want who She wants.
For the She called whore, hoe, slut, jezebel, hussy, tramp, because She does like skirts
Her passion, unbridled, unsheathed lust and desire, they assume She’s easy.
Unfair perceptions of who She is, who She does and why.
It’s no one’s business, but as a woman, calling her own shots,
It becomes everyone’s business.
For the She who rejects tradition,
The notion that She is incomplete without husband and offspring,
In that order, because you know…the bible.
They call her broken.
For the She existing outside herself, they call complicated,
The bitter She, the angry She,
The She they pushed too far, or sometimes not enough,
The dream deferred She because life hits differently when you’re female.
And even harder when you’re black.
For She who was brutally stunned into silence, only a muted “no” escaping her lips,
Now is shamed and blamed for her own assault.
Left to pick up the pieces of herself like shattered glass, and put herself back together.
I would carry the load for her,
But I taught her how to sling that baggage over her shoulder with might.
I trained her in tactical combat on battlefield Earth,
In a society that does not honor her
But hinges her value on her ability to exist under the weight of its greed,
Negligence, and misogyny
She knows how to rage, so She’s called unstable.
But the right amount of crazy warrants respect,
And a clear path to walk through the shadowy valleys, unscathed.
As I’ve taught her, steadily in spiked stilettos with a magic stride,
Unwavering and fearless,
Over the threshold into spaces not intended for her,
The envy of men, the welcome mat she wipes her feet on.
For dramatic She, who takes up all the space in the room,
Claims ownership of every molecule for herself
And every She behind her.
For She who doesn’t play nice, and with dagger sharp wit,
Bursts every bubble, speaks out of turn, because it’s always her turn,
Then helps herself to the seat at the head of the table,
Without invitation, where all She’s belong,
She who heeds the ancestral tug at the base of her soul,
Who truly sees herself in the mirror and falls in love with She.
She who was once afraid of the dark,
But became one with it,
Accepting her shadow and harnessing its power.
She gives life, She is light.
She shines everywhere and anywhere, regardless,
In spite of, because of.
Cosmic power is hard to dim,
It radiates from her pores, She literally glows.
Tossing her head to and fro, zig zagging her neck for emphasis,
She tells the world to piss off when it tests her.
I see me in Her light, her prideful smirk,
Her empowered gaze, chest out,
Chin high as the sunrise, eyes fixed.
I taught her to heal herself, create that which She desires, and manifest my energy,
She practices with every passing challenge of her survival,
Every act of defiance is survival, self-preservation,
Rebellion, resistance is survival.
And survival itself is revolutionary.
She/Her/ is revolutionary.
Down home, down in the dirty south.
Former plantations, tobacco spread across open fields down dirt roads,
Lined with magnolia trees,
The smell of honeysuckle, warm red clay, and pine, swirling and dancing in the humid air.
Abandoned, dirt packed floor shacks in the backwoods,
Where my ancestors laid their weary promise land vision filled heads,
Hearts longing for the possibility of freedom found up north,
Struggling as they strive, to keep hope alive,
To survive, another day,
In the heat, of a relentless sun,
Faces turned up toward the promise of heaven.
Cotton white clouds against Rapture blue skies.
Sweat against furrowed brows,
Whips on backs, carrying both the weight of oppression, purpose, and hope.
Singing songs of liberation,
Voices, the sounds of blackness,
Riding on the sobering stale, southern wind,
Down home, down south,
The birth of a nation
The birth of trap music.
Slow and lazy drawled greetings
Geechy tongues chopping up words, mashing new ones together,
Like creamed corn and boiled potatoes with butter, an antebellum remix.
Southern hospitality, friendly hey yall’s, and invitations to gatherings of
Shared meals and storytelling over,
Fresh brewed sweet tea the liquid amber hallelujah and golden fried chicken to save your soul,
Chitlins and pig feet, for the unbothered.
“That hog been good to us black folk, who said they don’t eat pork,” grandma would say.
Don’t come back from college vegetarian. We eat all things that sqwawk, crawl, or scurry down here.
In the spirit of ho cakes with candied yams, fried okra, and
Chow chow topped collard greens with fat back,
Making backsides so fat
You can see it from the front,
Wait til you see it from the back.
Fluffy as pound cakes, blessed thick I’m somebody mama hips,
That wind, rock, and back up on anxious crotches in dark juke joint corners.
Making country boys wishful and thirsty.
Pistol totin, shotgun shooting, ax throwing, country gals, dranking southern comfort, paul masson,
Jack daniels, and E&J,
We like our liquor dark, like our past.
Spitting sunflower seeds off the porch with marksman precision.
Walking barefoot over dusted parking lot lawns to the mailbox
Skin glistening in the hot box that is the south,
Hot like texas pete hot sauce on catfish fritters fresh out the grease hot,
Hot like summer ‘97 dressed in daisy dukes wife beaters, and Carolina blue nikes freshman year on the yard at NC A&T, hot.
Hot like freaknik,
Hot like redbones, with red hair, red nails, and red lips talking shit.
Hot like standing on the corner by the stop sign, two blocks from hell hot.
A forever layer of moisture covering all,
Saturating all clothing, all material, til it sticks and stays.
Everyone, sweaty, shiny, shimmery, sexy.
Baking like sweet dumplings.
Down here all skinfolk are somebody’s cousin,
And all kinfolk know blood is thicker than water,
Mama n’em, daddy n’em, Grandma n’em
We all know thems
We’ll see them at church, then at grandma’s house afterwards for Sunday dinner.
We’ll break bread, pray together, eat together, argue,
Then eat some more, pray some more.
That’s what family is for, we gotta stick together.
Being black is hard enough,
It’s even harder down south.
The south doesn’t forget.
It holds fast to the ways of old.
Antiquated and outdated.
Stubborn as the kuzzo that spreads across the unoccupied and unclaimed, out of control.
Doing what it wants, disregarding the world around it.
But resilient, bold, beautiful,
Anchored and ancient as the roots of the angel oak tree,
Stretching further than the eyes can see, reaching far and wide.
Whispering words of wooded wisdom,
Ancestral voices beckoning it’s children
To come home.
DL: What new projects are you currently working on?
LP: Currently I am working on my first poetry collection, titled The Heaux Phase, a few short stories for anthologies, and a novel that has been in the works for four years. I am hoping to finalize the chapbook this year. In addition, I am continuing The Literary Cypher reading series but planning to kick it up a notch as we approach the two-year mark.
DL: Thanks so much for being with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.
LP: Thanks for having me!