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A poem for a poet
ConnectSavannah Import Default Image

A Poet is a Clinton D. Powell
(acknowledging with love brother-poet Clinton)

A poet is a verb that blossoms light
in gardens of dawn, or sometimes midnight.
From roots of nouns revered and legends told,
the leaves of their passion feed and unfold.
Like vines of flaming truth they embrace and renew,
squeezing hope out of fears once poisonous and blue.
Then came his miracles of immaculate metaphors--
Dreams unlocked genius, and faith opened doors.
A poet is a Clinton D. Powell spreading wings of soul
like a feathered river sparkling newly-minted gold.
Like burning tambourines, waves dance to his rhymes.
Eagles and angels measure his time.
As he bids farewell, weeping hearts wonder: Why?
"I'm a poet," he sings, "I was born to fly."
-- by Aberjhani, 1/4/2011

I still have my copy (three copies in fact) of the May 24, 2006 edition of Connect Savannah with brother-poets Clinton D. Powell and RenaZance on the cover. The image is a colorfully vibrant one with RenaZance striking the more extroverted pose (looking straight at the camera) and Clinton opting for an introverted style (possibly glancing in the direction of his unseen muse).

Both, as cofounders of the Spitfire Poetry Group, represented like true keepers of this southern city's eternal literary flame, what it meant at the time to endow poetry in Savannah, specifically in the arena of spoken word, with a renewed sense of creative intensity and relevant cultural urgency.

I was not surprised to see them on the cover of Connect because their work as artist advocates whose faith in poetry's ability to help heal individuals and communities had not only earned them this particular honor, but had taken them beyond Savannah to cities and classrooms where what they had to share was, and still is, highly valued.

What did surprise me when I read the story was the announcement that I was conducting a poetry workshop for that weekend's Second Annual Spoken Word Festival produced by Spitfire. If I was drinking tea or coffee at the moment I'm sure I choked on it.

Without question, my friend had asked me to conduct the workshop. Also without question, I had explained to him my very important disposition at the time as a hypersensitive literary recluse and former caregiver in the process of privately reinventing myself-- and therefore declined the request. As it happened, the week before his cover story came out I had actually interviewed Clinton for a different article and he had told me how "Theater was my first love, and then I got into poetry. But the two intertwine, so..."

So that meant he (and maybe his poetry alter-ego as well) had decided to inject the theatrical elements of absurdity, tragedy, and comedy into the workshop situation with the hope that I would feel compelled to abandon my hermitage and participate after all. From his theatrical perspective, it would have been tragic as well as absurd if aspiring poets attending the festival were denied the opportunity to benefit from whatever insights I might have to share.

Considering that I was a native of the city whose work had been published internationally and who, as he put it in the Connect article, "was one of the very early influences in Savannah spoken word," my absence would be close to criminal. The comic part came from the uncertainty of how I might or might not react. Would I yell and curse some heartless power junkie or would I laugh at his daring and give in?

He trusted that I would forgive any trespasses and ultimately smile about his boldness out of respect for two things: the poetic passion which had driven him to do it and recognition of the fact that he was working very hard to help keep alive an aspect of Savannah's cultural identity forged by such amazing souls as Conrad Aiken, Gerald Chan Sieg, Hugh Poindexter, Beverly Herndon, Rosemary Daniell, Ja A. Jahannes, Vaughnette Goode-Walker, Receding Wave, and so many torch-bearing others.

Could I really turn him down? No, I could not. And therein shines one major definition of what it meant to be Clinton D. Powell: someone who looked for, trusted in, and helped empower (if you will) the best in others.

It takes a lot of beautiful love, uncommon sincerity, and spitfire courage to do that. It takes a Clinton D. Powell.