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Writer blends poetry, activism in book

| Thursday, February 13, 2014

Saint Mary’s welcomed Ekere Tallie, a poet whose work focuses on the values of an activist, to Carroll Auditorium on Thursday for a reading. She said her book, “Karma’s Footsteps,” is filled with the songs of a black, poor and resilient woman.

Tallie said that she lives by writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s quote, “your silence will not protect you.” In one of her poems, Tallie said she wrote, “wounded eyes will tell it, even though we don’t.”

Tallie said her poetry revealed her personal experience of being sexually abused. She said she learned as hard as it was for her to reveal herself as a victim, sharing her story helps other people.

“Poetry for me is not art for art’s sake; it’s art for our sake,” Tallie said. “I will share my poetry with anybody who is open.”

Tallie said she draws inspiration from sources all around her, including race, love and the blues. Her book “Continuum,” which will be published this September, features a series of 12 letters to Tallie’s imaginary friend, Continuum.

“I am interested in young writers interested in liberation,” Tallie said. “Continuum is interested in using art for liberation.”

Tallie said she “[has] so many poems on love gone wrong.” She read a poem titled “Medusa,” inspired by a former boyfriend who told her that her hair made her look like Medusa as she stepped out of the shower.

“As a woman I am unafraid to turn men to stone,” she said, concluding the poem.

Tallie revealed an unfinished poem she was in the process of editing called “Lady.”

“It’s a piece I am currently working on,” Tallie said. “It’s about a crazy woman, not accepting her crazy, but acknowledging it.”

Tallie also read pieces centered on the immigration of entire black communities.

“There are two types that I cover,” Tallie said. “One is voluntary migration, like the Great Migration, and the other is forced, where people were literally forced out of the South in the early nineteenth century.”

The poetess also spoke about women accepting and loving their bodies, a topic considered in her poem dedicated to the beauty of gap-toothed women. Tallie said she encountered a cab driver in New York who spent their entire drive trying to convince her that her smile was beautiful.

Tallie said she began to fully appreciate her culture after reading “The Autobiography of Malcom X” when she was 16 years old.

“Now people think Malcolm X and make so many assumptions,” Tallie said. “He made many changes, but in the end he understood the brotherhood of men.”

Tallie said her family has a rich history in the South, involving themselves in the rights movement.

“I also like hidden stories, getting beneath the surface,” Tallie said. “I have many stories of my own that I just sit in my room and write, but you need to separate wheat from chaff to find out what is meaningful to other people.”

Junior Dara Marquez looked up Tallie’s poetry after noticing the fliers around the College’s campus.

“I found her spoken word to be empowering and wanted to be a part of her words in person,” Marquez said.

Marquez was invited to dinner with Tallie by Student Involvement and Multicultural Services (SIMS).

“[Tallie] is really easy going, relatable,” Marquez said. “A lot of the things she says, you relate as a woman. If you’re a creative person curious as to how other people express their values, she’s good at that.”

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