Thursday, May 2, 2013

The origins of J-Cherry

"the birth of poetry", watercolor on paper, circa 2001 JSW 

Poetry has always been a source of refuge for me. It has carried me through hard times, helped me to grow, and has changed my life in ways I could not have imagined! Seven years ago I rented a studio space on Pratt Street in Hartford. I was painting and writing poetry, and producing art shows. One evening while applying for a poetry fellowship, I heard this beautiful sound coming from outside my window. It was a saxophone, and it drew my out of my studio onto Pratt Street. I followed the music to the corner, and stopped at the Russell where it was emanating. I stood there peeking in through the window. A friendly man invited me in. I was shy and way under dressed. Everyone looked great and I had on my sweats, a t-shirt and a ponytail. I watched for a while and left making note to go back the following week.

It was a warm summer evening, and The Russell has European style windows that open up the restaurant to the street. I stood and I watched the array of music and poetry again. This time I was prepared to stay for the show! I was mesmerized! It was the 'Love Jones Experience', a weekly open mic. I had never encountered anything like it, and I went back each week. For a month I was part of the audience. I wasn't ready to perform. I had the jitters! What I saw at the 'Love Jones Experience’ was living breathing poetry, hip-hop, street poets, poets with passion like I had never seen! Backed up with sax, bass and conga! WOW!!! There were a variety of voices from poetry to song, to comedy, and it was oh so good! I went back to my studio and tried on a new voice for my words. I practiced for weeks, alone in my studio, walking my dog, washing the dishes, in the shower, everywhere. My poetry was coming alive slowly off the page.

Finally one evening, the host of ‘The Love Jones Experience’ a talented singer with great stage charm, Charmagne Tripp, came by with her list for the open mic. Hesitantly I got her attention and signed up.  I was so shy! I slowly wrote my name… but what was my name? My regular name, Jennifer, boring! I thought to myself. Jennifer is a fine name, but I wanted to have something with pizzazz, something different then Jennifer, because Jennifer is WAY TOO shy to get up there and bare her soul in front of an audience! It was a big audience too! Panicky I scribbled Jennifer what other choice did I have? As I waited my turn I could feel my heart racing, my palms sweaty, but the worlds rolled in my head flowing in my brain like music, I knew I could do it! “Jennifer, Jennifer, you up sister!”…  the words echoed for a moment and I was on! The conga and bass player were great. They had a special way of playing so that their sound made the poetry really come alive. I closed my eyes, swayed to the sound of the conga and bass and let out this poem:


I am a cherry sweet yet tart, 

a luscious fruit dangling from a tree. 

You can’t help but notice me,

my sleek crimson skin, my heart like shape.
I am too pretty to miss.

Come taste me. I know you’ll want to eat me.

From a pit under the ground I grew. 

Like magic I come and go.

My sustenance will fill you.

I am a cherry sweet yet tart.

Ripe and juicy,
yearning to be picked and eaten. 
Taste my succulent fruit,

savor my flavor as I enter your mouth.

My flesh is moist and wet.

Heaven on your tongue,
ecstasy inside you.

I am a cherry sweet yet tart.

One bite and my juices will flow,

leaving your lips with a warm glow. 

Lick your fingers clean,

taste my juices as they mingle with your skin.

I am a cherry sweet yet tart.

When you’re finished with me,
plant my pit in the ground

and shower me with your love.

Then I'll be sure to come back around
to let you eat of my flesh.

I am a cherry sweet yet tart.
 a luscious fruit dangling from a tree.

Come taste me, I know you’ll want to eat me…

I felt great on stage! I opened my eyes, glanced around, and breathed my poetry into a new life. I couldn't believ it was me up there! When I finished, Charmagne looked at me with surprise, and said, “Wow! You are not Jennifer, you’re J-Cherry!” Really?! I said, I love it!!! J-Cherry, that’s me! That alter ego who is not shy and loves to be on stage! YES! That’s me! Seven years later, I am producing an open mic at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown called, ‘Anything Goes’ modeled after 'The Love Jones Experience’. I also produce a radio show on WESU 88.1FM,  ‘VOICE of the CITY’ featuring poetry, music and the arts in the community. And I just recorded my first album with my band, J-Cherry and the Strawberries. Poetry has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined! Never doubt the power of poetry!

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