On Tuesday evenings, the DePaul POETS gather in DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Student Center. Founded in 2010, the student organization creates a community, both at DePaul and in Chicago, for poets to come together to write and share poetry. DePaul POETS’ meetings are held as workshops and led by a different member each time, prompting poem ideas and facilitating writing exercises.
Meetings aren’t the only times the members write poetry. BE Jimenez, DePaul POETS treasurer, will think of lines while he walks to class or rides the CTA. Katriel Hampton-King, president of the DePaul POETS, writes on the weekends, typically composing multiple drafts before he is happy. Daniel Brown says he writes poetry in his bedroom and in his bathroom. He carries his spiral poetry notebook, now flimsy and covered in scribbles, wherever he goes. He needs to get a new one, he says. But for now, what he has works.
For all three of the poets, poetry is, simply and obviously, personal to them. While the art is for them, their own expression and their own emotional digestion, it is also for those reading their poetry or listening to their performances.
“The purpose that poetry has in my life is to share a message. I always want to basically share a message that people can relate to, help them out with their day in any way possible,” said Hampton. “I just write because I want my poetry to affect someone in some way where they can say like, ‘hey, I’m struggling with this too, and I just want to thank you for the piece that you shared with me because it is really uplifting for me.’”
Minnesota Miracle as told by Stefon Diggs
by Katriel Hampton-King
Ten seconds remain
for us to win the game.
Our destination is the end zone,
which is 3,000 miles away.
My heart rate is at
599 beats per minute.
silence does not
calm my shaking limbs. Their hands
squeezing their heads or clutching their knees
they know it all depends on this one play.
My teammates all adorn smiles,
but I can see them
masking their grimaces.
The energy in this huddle
is so low. Yet
my quarterback says
“Try to get as deep as you can”
and at the snap my feet kissed the land.
Each fan in attendance
stop looking up to the sky
and look at the field.
Seven seconds remain
til the game is over. My quarterback is
seems ready to fling it.
I’m not quite open and
the defenders seem too interested in me.
Surely there are other guys.
The quarterback slings it anyway
with a mixture of muscle and faith.
Calculate the angle. Time the Arc.
Time the Jump. Just
Don’t drop the ball. Drop it
Super Bowl dreams are over.
Early retirement is my next option.
Maybe I’m not quite cut out for the NFL.
of defenders. Football
is getting closer to me.
to jump over defenders.
The ball hits my hands.
My feet are pounding.
The stadium’s pounding.
Fans at home are pounding.
Zero seconds remain.
Guess you can call that the game winner.
“No matter what with poetry I think for me it’s about communicating truths—making the poems substantive enough or crafting imagery or literary devices so that they can really see what these truths are, you know?” Daniel said. “It’s all about image and perspective and how you craft that image so they can get the right perspective of what you are trying to communicate through a poem. Like about love, about hate, about anger and what it does to somebody.”
My Terror is Failure
by Daniel Brown
I can never shake you,
Instead you shake me.
Snooping, Slithering, Seeking.
To sway me into your dark duress
Crunch the core of my existence, my heart,
Into mottled muscle and red flesh.
Snooping, Slithering, Seeking.
Now my spirit flatlined and bleeding
I know I’ll revive, resuscitate in time.
You’re an ideological phantasm, a ghost.
The darkness to my shade.
You can never attack my physical but bit by bit
You dismantle my heart and leave my spirit
Knowing the same song will repeat.
You aim to have my heart in your clutches again,
Maybe this time you’ll get to
Devour and eat.
And this time it might not start.
We’ve been at war as long as I remember.
Every time I survive,
I try to rub away the red that dims my arms and legs
since the last time I died.
My destiny seems ordained.
I’ll continue to battle, continue to be slain.
Your always there failure.
Snooping, Slithering, Seeking to take me out.
My terror in every route.
My fear is that when I die of stress.
From my loss in your relentless conquest,
That when your eyes crinkle in delight of the sight of my heart crumbs.
I fear that at the last lick of your finger my body will go numb.
And I’ll manifest into what I fed into.
Another looming shade, brother, another you.
I Promise Momma
by Daniel Brown
Damn Ma, I Promise I’ll get all A’s,
I know we need that scholarship pay.
College cost high,
I know you and pops work to keep me and my sister alive,
making ends meet,
taxes, debts, and loans turn
life into a hard, grinded coffee bean bitter than
a sugar sweet.
I Promise Momma, I’ll stick with Chinese
Take you and the family far,
from where we are.
You and Pops see me as an international businessman, corporate meetings
with wealthy China men.
A sight rarely seen,
a black man of a high pristine prestige.
I Promise Momma, I’ll try to watch my mouth
and watch my tone.
I know corporate colloquial is not the same city slang,
that resonates with pangs of a hood twang.
I Promise Momma, I’ll wear the right clothes,
at the right time.
Job time checkered or plain dress t-shirt no ripped jeans
or jeans with holes
You had to say that because you know I like those.
I Promise Momma, I understand the importance of impressions.
Leave a finger line imprint in a firm hand grip.
Gentle greeting, teeth white smiling instead of that
mean mug or ghetto grit
you used to warn me of timeouts and belt hits.
I Promise Momma, there will be no baby momma drama.
You say I search for “flashy fast girls”,
who give birth and press for a Gucci purse.
I protest, just looking for a down chick that knows me best.
You deduce it as a lie
say it’s best to let these wild, city girls fly.
Say they just bird brains looking for a place just to lay their eggs in a nest.
I Promise Momma, if I run into the cops I’ll oblige
Not get popped, at a traffic stop.
Like Philando Castile,
Six bullet casings dropped at point blank range,
I remember hearing Philando’s screams of pain.
Or Eric Garner’s sputters,
In the way a put put putters out,
out of breath he utters.
“I Can’t Breathe”.
As another cop puts a black man to death.
I’ll try and tame that rebellious rage,
Which I did when cops pulled up in the parking lot,
By Pop’s absent parking spot.
As they had to escort the
“loud, angry black man”
out the lot.
I Promise Momma, I’ll watch how I protest.
I’m a loving son and a big brother.
I know you don’t want me to be another black brother dead,
And make you,
Another black sonless mother.
I Promise Momma, I’ll be safe at parties
No Fighting, No Hood Beef, No Doing Cracked Up Drugs.
That have taken away, or led a stray, your brothers and uncles you loved.
I Promise Momma, I’ll stay safe in the streets.
I’ll stick to the clues,
because I know people aim to make you bleed red
out the mother f—in blue.
A gang dichotomy,
Blue and Red,
Leaving people dead following a suicidal ideology.
I ain’t even trynna explain how they totin’ guns,
Just Reppin where they from,
just for fun.
She know all to well how—excuse me—these n— get to spraying
And she ain’t tryin to hear none.
Pop’s told me, see how America got black moms in a worry
Like St. Louis, Like New York,
Chicago is another city that’s dirty.
Remember your promise to your mother
when you be out in a hurry.
I know you f—s with your people,
I know you want change,
you want to help wherever there is depression
But people are gritty,
based on how institutionalized racism built the neighborhoods
And sometimes all n— want to do is see you bleed.
Do good for the hood, I’m wit it.
But keep your promise to your Momma.
And for me—just make me proud.
“Poetry has a musical purpose, an intellectual purpose and is something that — I want to write poetry that impresses people and that they actually respond to. Like if I do a poem and all the audience claps but don’t no one say anything to me afterwards, I don’t think it was that good of a poem because they’re just clapping to be nice. But stuff where people be like ‘Yo— ’not just that they liked it, too — But when they’re like, ‘Yo, this specific line you said, these specific words you said.’ I want people to say that to me.”
By BE Jimenez
Hate me cause you’re right
Hate me cause I’m white
Hate me cause I’m black
Asian Hispanic and all that
But not cause how I act
Hate me based off false facts
Like my race, age
Hate me nowadays for no reason
Except the language that I’m speaking
Since it’s hatred you believe in
Hate me cause I’m straight
Hate me cause I’m gay bi or trans
Hate me the standards of what you call a woman or a man
Hate me cause you can
I know you do not wanna understand
Hate me of the lies you heard and bulls— that you’ve learned
But be aware cause karma travels in u-turns
So rest assure if hatin and it only helps you
Then you prolly just hatin cause you hate yourself too
by BE Jimenez
Bein honest ain’t always painless
People and truth often have awkward exchanges
Easier to talk to strangers
More than our own family members
Child perspective we can’t remember
That we have them
As adults we still throwin temper tantrums
Cause things just ain’t be goin our way good luck is more than delayed
Interrupted by bitten tongues when we got so much to say
But it’s okay
Cause once we catch that wind beneath our wings you know we blow em away
So let’s show em today
I startin makin poems since summer 08
Bein honest ain’t always painless
Sometimes the truth cut like stainless
Realize the difference between bein known and bein famous
We all wanna be entertainers we let it change us
And yet we sayin the same s— we so socially brainless someone explain this
And if you can’t then I will
Yea we hurt cause feel
Yea we hurt but we’ll heal and still we all in search for the real
Somethin that we can look back at to know it mattered
Success isn’t usually served on silver platters
Most times we take out the trash then turn it to treasure
Sustain the pain until we turn it to pleasure
Just do whatever they can’t measure dream