A poet comes back to Monterey to read new work, including a poem about Highway 1. - Monterey County Weekly: Arts & Culture Blog.
Turiya Autry is a Portland, Oregon-based, socially and politically engaged poet who's coming to read her work at Old Capitol Books (559 Tyler St., Monterey, 333-0383) 4-6pm today, Sunday. Her visit looks worth checking out.
Not just because she's opened for, or collaborated with, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Davis and Hillary Clinton. Not just because she's taught workshops and classes like Hip-Hop and Contemporary Social Issues, and Race and Gender in Science Fiction Film, at Portland State University. Not just because she's presented at conferences like Rock the Vote, Human Rights Day and Life Over Debt—Mobilizing Youth for Africa (in Rwanda). And not just because she brings two decades of insight into the written and spoken word.
Her visit is also worth checking out because this is a homecoming for Autry.
"I grew up here," she says. "From 4th grade to high school graduation. I went to Bay View Elementary, Walter Colton, P.G. High. I lived in Seaside, Monterey, and P.G."
Her school life wasn't all idyl and embracing. When she graduated from high school, her motivation was "Get me out of here" because she had been one of two black women at her high school, a situation she describes as "tough," one that made her feel isolated.
Also, a friend of hers committed suicide while they were in high school by jumping off a cliff in Big Sur, a painful memory that she had to reconcile when she came back to visit and hiked up a Big Sur mountain, pregnant with her son.
"Though we can talk about how beautiful the land is, people deal with hardships," she say. "They may have privilege and money, but a lot of things are brewing under the surface. California can be that way. All this beauty, desire for perfection—underneath it, real world issues."
She had family in Portland, and moved there with her then-husband to raise her two kids (her oldest is starting at Stanford). But she missed the ocean. She got homesick.
"Even though I've lived in Portland for 20 years, I consider the Monterey Peninsula my home," she says.
She's staying with family in Seaside during this visit. She says she was feeling stressed about a one-woman show she's putting together, but while here she's going to go to the beach, open up her laptop, and work near the ocean and let the waves settle her down.
"Being here and growing up here really shaped me as an artist, irregardless of what was happening in my life," she says. "Having the ocean in your backyard keeps things in perspective. A lot of people I grew up with went on to be amazing artists."
Her own poetry is free verse, except for when she breaks out into hip-hop rhyming. She says she writes for the page first rather than for performance, then edits by reading out loud to listen for the sound and the flow.
"The content of the piece dictates the flow," she says.
She'll read from her new book of poetry, called Roots, Reality & Rhyme, which she says "bridges the personal and the political, the mythic and the real."
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