Sylvia Chatman did what many do not have the courage to do: She left her job at city court earlier this year to pursue her true passion.
In her case, it’s poetry.
In May, Chatman left her 9-to-5 job and gave her co-workers one of her poems as a parting gift. She will now be reading that poem during her upcoming event, Womanly Words, on Sunday.
Womanly Words is a gathering of local poets of all ages who will read their original creations before an audience. For this occasion, all of the dozen or so performers are women.
Chatman, also known as Sincere Scribe on stage, decided to create Womanly Words because she felt there was a lack of poetry-related events in Baton Rouge.
Chatman said she has hosted a handful of other poetry readings, but this is the first event of its kind.
“[Womanly Words is a collection of] expressions from women,” Chatman said. “The poems are not necessarily just about womanly events, but it’s women expressing their heart, their feelings … so it’s the way women think about things.”
Cynthia Simmons, one of the performers, said it’s about “love, life, spirituality and commitment.”
Two other performers, April Davis Johnson and Ericka Taylor, said they’ve also participated in Chatman’s other events. All four women have bonded from their love of poetry as well as honoring God.
Simmons said the poem she will be reciting, “You Kept Me,” was written in 1994 after she suffered a severe thyroid storm — a rare side effect of hyperthyroidism — and flat-lined seven times. Simmons said she believes her survival was an act of divine intervention.
“I had to learn to talk again, walk again, use my hands again, and now you cannot make me be quiet,” Simmons said with a laugh.
Johnson said she began writing poetry in the mid ’90s after her friend asked her to write a poem honoring his wife. She agreed under the condition that the poem would also praise God.
She said her poem is named “The Transformation,” and it centers on the personal journey she went through to achieve self-love as well as learning to connect with other women.
“I really didn’t know how to connect with women … me and [my] momma don’t get along, me and my sister don’t get along,” Johnson said. “But down the years, things changed dramatically.”
Taylor said her poem, titled “A New Generation,” uses a warfare metaphor to emphasize defeating the evils and temptations of the devil.
“The main words are, ‘Look out, devil. Here we come. We’re a new generation, and we come in the name of the Lord,’” Taylor said.
Chatman said she’ll be reading her new poem, which expresses her reasons for leaving her previous job and her progression into entrepreneurship.
Chatman said she hopes her event will attract poets who want to have an audience for their work. She also said she hopes she can create an all-inclusive community, which integrates poets of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. She added that she believes arts and culture are very valuable, and they should be celebrated more often. Finally, she wants to let women be heard.
“Sometimes art isn’t given the attention that it really should be given, and so we need that,” Chatman said. “And just having a voice, you know, giving women a voice. We don’t always have a voice, so [having] an outlet to be able to express yourself on an individual level is important as well.”