J. Ivy on Def Poetry / by J. Ivy

10 years ago today my stage got extremely bigger. Shortly after 9/11, I headed to a saddened New York City to film for Season 1 of Russell Simmons' HBO Def Poetry. The experience is one I'll never forget. The city itself was saddened by this world changing event but a burst of energy perfectly funneled thru the voices of The Poets. I'm proud to say that I am one of those Poets. Hundreds of people crammed into The Supper Club in Times Square, celebrities of all walks of life were drawn in by the anticipation, Poets from all over the country prepped for their debut, cameras were tested and ready to roll, Russell proudly worked the room, Mos Def raised the energy with his hosting, and when the time came Poet after Poet positively destroyed the stage. My performance, to say the least, was humbling. Years earlier in Chicago, I woke up one morning pissed with how life was treating me at the time. Nothing seemed to be going right and I badly needed to vent. Naturally, my instincts kicked in and I simply went out on the Lake to write... Now here I was in The Big Apple performing that poem with hundreds of appreciative spectators watching, hanging on to every syllable, while I was being filmed for millions to later see. Nervous and excited, I delivered my words, while being strengthened by the claps and happy heckles. In the end I received a standing ovation. What a feeling!!

Months later, December 21, 2001, that life changing performance aired on HBO. I went from performer to audience member as I sat in my home, amongst my viewing party, watching and reacting to my soul's verbal eruption. It was surreal to say the least. To watch Cedric the Entertainer open the show, to see The Last Poets take it to a legendary level, and then move forward to the performance of my poem "I Need To Write" closing the 3rd Episode of this Peabody Award Winning Series, felt like my dreams had finally transformed into reality. I was the 1st African-American to represent Chicago on the show and it feels good to know that I was able to share the pride of my family, friends, and community with millions of people around the World. It feels good when people like Dave Chappelle see you in the streets and recite the words "I NEED TO WRITE," claiming it as his favorite poem of that series. It let's you know that you can have a magnificent effect on the World.

I thank GOD for my Gift and the opportunity. Cheers to the Poets!! Here's to the next 10 years...

Much Love!!

J. Ivy