by Carrie Thayer
She jumps and glides from subjects, the personal and political merge as she unweaves her tales. All the while her hands cut through the air, drawing the audience in.
The chairs are arranged in rows, the walls a stock beige, but Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie still makes the space feel inviting.
Ekere Tallie, an award-winning poet from New York, visited MSUM on Thursday for a luncheon and poetry reading. The reading featured poems from her first publication, 2011’s “Karma’s Footsteps” and the forthcoming “Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation.”
Ekere Tallie is the Publishing Editor of the literary magazine African Voices. She’s taught at York College and Medgar Evers College in New York City and is currently touring in support of her work.
The poet’s art focuses on women, race, love and personal history. Tackling subjects like rape, death and social injustice, Ekere Tallie told the audience that she would “start with the difficult and move into the easier stuff.”
The first piece she read relays the feelings of an African-American woman, pregnant during the recent cases of police brutality and how she deals with the thought of bringing a child into the society that allows those actions.
Ekere Tallie’s telling of the various perspectives on these cases can be particularly helpful given Fargo-Moorhead’s distance from these incidents.
“A lot of people, they’re not aware of stuff that’s going on outside of the area,” said graphic design senior Jabari Graham. “They’re only aware of what’s going on locally. So, I feel like people like [Ekere Tallie], that come here, they can inform people.”
Ekere Tallie uses the medium to voice her own fears about the political state, asking “what is the purpose of art when all hell is breaking loose?”
But art, of course, does have its place, it helps to reassure those who are trying to propel the same message.
“It’s really great to hear another perspective from another area, so you know that work that is happening elsewhere – it’s not invalid,” said gender studies sophomore Ian Anderson.
After the reading Ekere Tallie opened the floor for questions ranging from ISIS to how she started writing (it was Prince and Cyndi Lauper fan fiction). Halfway through the Q&A a young child dropped a series of drawings at the poet’s feet. Ekere Tallie thanked the girl and said it was an example of love.
“How do we get back to that?” Ekere Tallie asked.
Information about Ekere Tallie, including publications and video readings, is available at ekeretallie.com.
“Hopefully, if I read a poem, you think, alright, you know what, that is a pretty intense issue, maybe I can figure out a way to be useful,” said Ekere Tallie. “Poetry has done that for me. “