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Milwaukee Poet Pushes Through the Fear

Jul. 6, 2011
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Linetta Davis develops creative expressions on a number of different levels. She has performed poetry for years and published a few books, including Honey and Vinegar. She also has staged her multi-voice choreopoem A Black Woman's Burden as a theatrical production in southeastern Wisconsin. In a class titled “Rebirth Ink,” Davis looks to show others how to overcome personal conflicts through written and vocal expressions.

A Black Woman's Burden, you direct other people to perform words that are deeply personal to you. Is that weird?

Well, I guess so. It's kind of liberating, too. It's not just my story. Every time that I've done the play, the people who fit the role—it's their role and it's something personal that they're struggling with in their own lives. And so it's like it's not even mine anymore. And I found that if I got back and I try to re-perform some of the pieces [in the show], I hear their voice in my head. So it's not even my poem anymore. I have to write something else. That's when I know that they [the actors] have taken it all the way because it's not just my story—it's theirs.

How much stage experience did you have prior to A Black Woman's Burden?

Not much. I'm really shy. I'm an introvert. Even when I'd go to poetry sets, I'd always sit and listen. I was always afraid to get up and share my things. But I was encouraged to do that quite a bit. I had been writing a while, so I already had the pieces. What I always tell my students is that sometimes you're born a certain way, but if your destiny calls you to do something else, you have to fight it. Naturally, I'm shy. My father was an introvert; I am as well. I'm totally comfortable with just sitting back and looking at the dynamics, looking at what everyone else is doing. But then there's always something in me that says, “OK, your turn.” And so I have to get up and do something. I was even a little annoyed at the end of the last performance of my play. I always do a little talk-back session with the audience. This one lady said, “Can we hear you do a poem?” I said, “Well, you just heard 30!” [laughs] Why do I have to do something personally just for you? I was just really annoyed. I talked around it for a good 10 minutes and then…I went ahead and did it. And it went really well.

A big focus of the class “Rebirth Ink” is getting people to go onstage.

Yeah. They're more bold than I am. I'm not. I feel like the more that I can push other people to do it, then the less that I have to do—maybe that's what it is. Once I start, once I get the first few words out, then I'm lovin' it. But it's just that fear—not really fear, but I'm shy… just having to push through that part.


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