by Robert "Bob" Bussey
Poetry is an ancient art form that dates back to antiquity. Poetry was often a form of epic poetry, used for storytelling, memorization, and oral transmission in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry also appears among the earliest records of many literate cultures, such as in Africa, where hunting, panegyric, and elegiac poetry were developed.
The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is closely related to musical traditions, and the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns, and other types of song such as chants. As such poetry is a verbal art. Poetry is old enough that we can’t determine exactly when it began, but by all accounts, it started as oral poetry, long before the written word was invented, and long before any printing press was invented.
Jerrica Jae Franklin practices her poetry in the spoken tradition. She started writing poetry in grade school, having fallen in love with poetry at an early age. While in her early years she would write her poetry down on paper, she started delving into spoken
poetry when she was around 22 years old. Back then she would read to King Hayes, a close friend, what she had written. He would tell her, “You have to put this out somewhere.” But she did not know where she would do so in the Alexandria, Louisiana
She eventually found her way to the Alexandria Museum of Art and got involved in Rhythm & Rhymes. It is there she found her home and discovered the art of the spoken word. She saw all these other people doing something she had longed to do and realized she had found a place to fit in and ply her trade. This also helped her overcome a speech impediment that had plagued her since childhood. Her then to be mentor said at that time that “to sit with a poem on your heart is like not driving a sports car to its potential.”
Something clicked, and Jerrica rose to give her first spoken poetry reading. A poetic sports car had been born. Since that reading 7 years ago, Jerrica has continued to write and then speak her poetry. She describes her readings as “calm but moving.” Her readings, generally done by memory (not reading script from a phone or page of paper) come across as sincere, from the heart, closely felt. She has a knack for connecting with her audience and drawing them into the moment of the poem so they can feel the emotion or experience the event set forth in the poem. She enjoys engaging her audience by moving around, moving close to them, and making direct eye contact. Not to be trite, but “she works the crowd.” Crowd engagement keeps her going. She lives for it, like a rap music star.
Her poems are mainly from personal events and speak for her in many ways. She delivers those events to the audience by looking them straight in the eye. She wants her audience to be engulfed with passion since that is the perspective from which she writes. That does not mean that all her poems are heart wrenching. In fact, she enjoys humor in poetry. It also does not mean that she writes and performs only one type of poetry.
Instead, not wanting to be placed in a box, her poetry is wide ranging in style, content, form, and emotion. When she is happy, she writes about being happy without a second thought. And, when she is sad, she writes about being sad. She prefers to be outside when she writes, or at least away from daily stresses and strains, sometimes writing all day or all night when the mood and environment are right. In fact, at one point in her career she would ride the A-trans bus system and write poetry on her phone as she traveled around town. Sitting in Sentry Drugs, a local well-known establishment with some of the best burgers in town, also became a favorite place to set down words and phrases.
She is able to write a poem in 30 minutes, but she can’t be stopped. If something moves her, she needs to put it down immediately. No edits. No stopping. The words just flow. I can try to give you a sense of how personal her poems are to her, but better yet is reading one of her latest poems. You decide for yourself.
Back To Me
I gathered each of my tears
And washed every garment clean,
Clothed my soul
With a tapestry of old bandages
Used to hold old wounds intact.
To hold me intact.
Pulled apart my ribs,
Hid myself in the inside of myself,
And marked us
Finding a sense of freedom
Held hostage by a box
Serving as a paradox.
Suffering but silent,
Even when opportunity knocked
On the door of my broken heart.
felt equivalent to breathing under water,
Out of order,
Mothered myself without a father.
I could befriend me too.
I could divide myself in two
And love me unconditionally.
Looked my lover in the eye
Like imperfections had no place,
Like betrayal never looked within my face.
I am the safest place I know.
Nurture my peace
And watch the trees of my thoughts grow.
Lonely but no longer longing
For love outside of me,
Not awaiting an apology.
Simply embracing and retracing
The steps back to me.
-Jerrica Jae Franklin
We discussed one of her poems, “Legacy,” that was written about 2 years ago. This particular poem is very, very personal to her. It speaks deeply about the loss of a person to whom she was very close. They were together, and then 30 minutes after parting this person was murdered. The depth of her despair is shown in the line, “Because today, I am waiting for the tomorrow you promised me.” That line sets out the raw emotion of loss that runs through the poem. The poem was never edited. It was set out
exactly as Jerrica felt. She wanted the reader to feel the emotions that were flowing through her at the moment she knew of the passing of this deeply close person. You get that when you read the poem.
“Legacy” is the lead in poem to Jerrica’s book, Words for Wings, a book of heartfelt poetry that was published in 2023. That book has 2 chapters: “Journey to Stephanie” and “The Art of Sebastian.” Those are the names of her parents.
Jerrica continues to perform her work in the central Louisiana area. You can find her at the Fighting Hand Brewing Company when an “Open Mic” night takes place. She performs all over CENLA and in the Lafayette area. She is slated to appear at the
“Festival of Words” in Grand Coteau. You can find out more about this festival at Festival of Words – St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission (cajuntravel.com).
You can also find out more about Jerrica at her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Janguageartz.
You can purchase her poetry book via Amazon at Words For Wings: Franklin, Jerrica: 9798373664998: Amazon.com: Books.
Jerrica’s second book of poetry, To The Lovers I Loved Before, is slated to be published in 2024.