Poet Jason Blakely will be among many artists to take part in “Until Name Becomes Prayer,” Monday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. at Summit Artspace. The event, which will feature Samoan immigrant, poet and arts educator William Alfred Nu’utupu Giles, is free and open to the public and will pay homage to “every indigenous and immigrant mouth that had to become a history book.” The night is sponsored by Summit Artspace, local artists, local organizations, and community members from all over the country.
Your Organization: Poetry Is Life Publishing (www.poetryislifepublishing.com)
Your Medium: Writing Poetry and Poetry Book Publishing
How do you describe yourself?
“I would describe myself as blessed, humble, honest, outspoken, stubborn, strong-willed, creative, hardworking, loving and lovable person. I would say that I am a great friend, a listener of spirits and someone who looks for the best in people. I’m husband to my wife, father to two daughters. I’m a poet, and publisher, owner of Poetry Is Life Publishing, a small book publishing company based in Akron, Ohio. I am a resident of the Summit Lake/South Street community and have been for close to 25 years.”
What is an object that describes your art and your work?
“Books. Publishing poetry books. Poetry Is Life Publishing is a book publishing company that takes great pride in helping poets turn their life into a book, while also helping poets turn their book into life. This is achieved by providing affordable, quality, personalized, professional and genuine book publishing and related services.
“As a poet and a publisher, I believe that publishing is more than putting a manuscript into book form and selling it. There must be a desire, a passion, a wanting to connect with others through poetic expression. A willingness to relate to and understand what others are going through. To take the responsibility as poets, to be the voice that sparks the important conversations of the soul. Publishing, (for the author) is the sincere sharing of the soul, a social, emotional invitation to their lives, an intimate confession of our humanity, a realization of a dream. It is a tool that should be used, (by those in that profession,) to give an opportunity to those who want to sincerely share their souls, as a timeless way to inspire, to ensure that throughout time, whether good, bad or indifferent, our legacies lives on.
“Poetry Is Life Publishing was established in January 2004. But well before that, the foundation was carefully being laid through unique experiences that are the driving force, the heart of Poetry Is Life Publishing. It was my freshman year in high school, 1996 and I was blessed to have a teacher that encouraged me to do my best. Mrs. Stewart suggested that I take a look at the bulletin board and what I saw was opportunity. It was in the form of an 8.5 by 11 flyer of a poetry contest sponsored by the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans.
“I was so excited to possibly have a chance to have my poem published in a book for people to see. Something inside me changed. I had an opportunity speak my mind and also the opportunity to hear what others are going through. I entered the contest and my poem, One’s View of Life was published and printed on the first page of the book. Right then, I knew that poetry would forever be a part of my life. The most important part was the fact that I was able to express my feelings in a way that brought inner peace. I bought a few copies, signed my amateur autograph to them and it gave me confidence to write, in the process learning who I am and how to express myself in different ways. It showed me that I could make a difference and connect to the lives of other through poetry and that I connected to the lives of other and was encouraged by the poems they wrote.
“As time passed, hundreds of poems written, I wanted to have a book of my own poetry published. A friend purchased a Poet’s Market 2003. This book was a road map to becoming published. I submitted poems, most of them rejected but it really got me interested in the business of publishing. What happened next would change my views of publishing forever. In the quest to become published, I wrote more than three hundred poems. When I say wrote, I mean a pencil and notebook paper. I submitted them to a publisher and expected to have them published. The poems were returned along with a rejection letter, saying that the company couldn’t publish my poems because they didn’t fit what they were looking for but encouraged me to keep writing. This single event along with other similar situations would be the motivation to take publishing my work into my own hands and learn how to publish others who have experienced the same thing.”
What are some projects you’re working on?
“On April 21, 2018, ‘The Voices of Real 2,’ which is a poetry compilation book of poets in the city of Akron will be published and a release will be held at The Front Porch Café (798 Grant St.) On June 16, 2018, my third poetry book, titled ‘The Sinner Who Sits In The Back Of The Church Has Something To Say,’ will be published and a release will also be held at The Front Porch Cafe.
“I’m also collaborating with The Peanut Shoppe on a free poetry contest for youth from K-8th grade called: Poetry: Crackin’ & Poppin’ at The Peanut Shoppe. This contest is a free monthly poetry contest designed to give young people, ages 5 to 13 the opportunity to showcase their poetic talent, while encouraging the creative writing process through a collaborating with The Peanut Shoppe, a local business that is fun, family-friendly, and that represents the uniqueness and positivity of the city and its communities. Youth will be able to win prizes for their poetry.
“Also, I’m collaborating with the Sidney Ryan Uniform Store on a free poetry contest called School Is Cool. This contest provides the opportunity for youth grades K-5 to earn one $30 gift voucher for school clothes from The Sidney Ryan Uniform Store. Also, I am publishing the first book for the Poetry Is Life Book Award, The End Is Near, The End Is Near: A Poetic Treatise on Death & Dying by poet Marjorie Burr coming in the late summer early fall of 2018.”
Why did you choose to be a part of “Until Name Becomes Prayer?
“I wanted to support a fellow poet, a fellow artist. I listened to Will Giles’ YouTube videos, and something in his spirit made me want to support this event. His passion, his voice is genuine, authentic.
“As a poet, as a fellow human being, I wanted to help support his contribution to poetry, to life, to art and to community.”
What excites you in your work?
“What excites me in my work is the courage it takes to share a person’s most vulnerable times in their life all in hopes that someone else can get something good out of it. It gives me hope that as people, we are not lost. It is exciting because even though we share similar experiences, there are different ways to express them. It is exciting to see the growth of a person, a spirit, a thought, an idea, a feeling. When you are open to seeing life through a different lens, that’s when you are able to see your dreams more clearly. You can learn from any situation and any person.
“The thing about blessings is once you are blessed with something, take what is yours or what you need and then give it away so that someone else can be blessed. I am excited about challenges and overcoming them. I like the process of putting a book together from beginning to end. I like the process of talking about the vision and finally seeing the vision. The excitement in the author’s eyes. The feeling like they have done something important in the world, something that will be hear long after they are not.
“I am excited when someone the author has never met says, I’ve been through the same thing. I like the way you worded that. I thought I was the only one who thought or felt like this. It is all about connecting as human beings. I am excited to share my views and feelings and see how people respond to them. It’s a great feeling to destroy stereotypes and preconceived notions. When you come from a place, a home, a neighborhood, a community, a nation where your voice is ignored, when you get a chance to speak and be heard, it is a wonderful feeling.”
What are you looking forward to?
“I am excited to hear Will and to see other artists perform. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the same stage as Will and other artists. I’m looking forward to hearing something that I can use to bless somebody else with.”