East Coast Poetry Club: Guyleigh Johnson
For the ninth week of East Coast Poetry Club, we present a poem by Guyleigh Johnson.
Welcome back to the East Coast Poetry Club. This is the ninth week of the project, in which we share a poem and first-person insights from a local poet. This week, Guyleigh Johnson is sharing a poem born from the process of performing another of her works at a local event.
I was inspired to write the piece Lotus Flower because I was asked to participate in a youth showcase at the Dartmouth Boys & Girls Club in which I created the piece I Grew Up In Dartmouth literally hours before I was scheduled to perform it.
In those same hours with the overwhelming emotions of I Grew Up In Dartmouth, and the struggle of coming from what society deems as low income communities, criminalized, marginalized, and threatening, I realized Dartmouth made me who I am. There was more depth to this place, and the people in it, than society would like to give it credit for.
Especially as a young Black youth, I realized we were innocent, we were being judged by our environments and outer appearance without understanding our circumstances or knowing us as human beings.
What I wanted people to take away from this piece, and my book Expect the Unexpected, was to not judge a book by it's cover; or in this instance a flower by it's soil. I wanted youth from my community to feel seen but more importantly to see themselves. I want them to know the beauty, power, strength and resilience they hold regardless of what they're surrounded by and last but not least that growth in "ugly" places is possible. It's about what you pour into yourself, and that you never dim your own light.
Lotus flowers grow in the darkest, dirtiest, muddiest swamps undeterred from its environment and they still sprout with a glow. That's usually how I write. In my lowest, most troubling experiences, I produce art.
I am the significance to your heart
Never falling apart
I connect with your mind
With both combined
My soul bleeds your purity
My mind craves your growth
I emerge from the depths of dirt, far from hurt
Into a beauty unimaginable
Almost impossible flower
Though the soil I came from is in the slaying of a swamp
Still I rise, I rise
Into a soul that streams a great significance of spreading
The lotus flower I am
The dirty seed I use to be
Doesn't define me
What defines me is the state I'm in after
Surviving the struggle
It's not where you come from
It's where you end up
Some of the ugliest places create the prettiest people from the inside out
Each week, in addition to sharing a poem and first-person reflections from the author, East Coast Poetry Club provides questions about the poem for readers to reflect upon. This week's questions are:
- If you've ever made a judgment about a neighbourhood in your own city or town, how does this poem re-frame that thought process?
- Can you relate your own life to the lotus flower metaphor?
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