Poet of the Month: Lola E. Peters

Almost let this one sneak up on me again—fortunately, I made my decision a few days ago, so it was only a matter of sitting down and actually writing the post.

For this latest entry in my series of tributes to poets I know, I celebrate and acknowledge my friend Lola E. Peters. Her poems and essays have appeared in a number of anthologies, as well as on the Crosscut, Seattle Star, and South Seattle Emerald websites. She has also published two volumes of poems, Taboos and The Book of David, and a book of essays, The Truth About White People. She founded the nonprofit Poetry+Motion, which, over its five-year lifespan, brought together dancers and poets to create ‘new choreography for poems written and performed by local poets’; currently serves on the boards of Leadership Tomorrow, Seattle City Club, and Onyx Fine Arts Collective; and is a long-time member of the African-American Writers’ Alliance (AAWA).

As a poet, Lola has inspired me in two important ways:

First, her use of clear, straightforward language and unpretentious structures. I see a lot of poems that read as though they are trying to be ‘poetic’, whether through word choice, syntax, or presentation; they may be fine for what they are, but I often do not have the patience for them. Lola’s poems say what they mean; when she does employ metaphor and symbolism, she does not make them so obscure that they cannot be understood.

Second, Lola is the first person I know to self-publish her own works. I knew, in an abstract sense, that it was possible, but when she produced her first book of poems, Taboos, I remember thinking, you can actually do this?! Although there were other factors at work, it was this realization that got me thinking about publishing my own poems in book form.

Okay, there’s actually a third: Not only did Lola introduce me to the idea of participating in writing critique groups (even if the one she invited me to join fell apart a few months later), she also invited me to read my poems at Writers Read, the monthly reading hosted by the aforementioned AAWA. At that time, I had read my poems in public exactly once; three years later (I think it’s three), I regularly attend readings at seven venues.

I also appreciate her strong moral compass. When Lola expresses concern about something, I know it is worth a closer look.

Although Lola does not regularly post her poems online, you can read a number of her essays (and the occasional poem) on the websites mentioned above. And, of course, her books are available on Amazon and Lulu—and at Third Place Books and Elliott Bay Book Company, if you are in the Seattle area.

 

You can learn more about Lola on her website: http://lolaepeters.weebly.com/

(1 October 2017)