What an honor it is to have the Grizzly Gazette include me in their Teacher Spotlight and to have Noor Tabba write the article.
Romaine Washington is an English teacher here at Los Osos with a specific love for poetry. When talking about her interest she said that “In the novel, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Melchizedek explains the concept of a Personal Legend as ‘your mission on earth.’ The protagonist’s Personal Legend is traveling and mine is writing poetry. The first poem I fell in love with was ‘The Swing’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I used to recite it to myself as I played on the swings. Although I haven’t been consistent in pursuing publishing and performance opportunities, I have been consistent in writing and gladly share my work when the invitation is extended.”
Mrs. Washington was on the Nation Slam Team in Georgia, was featured on the National Public Radio (NPR), as well as having writing appear in Stand Our Ground: Anthology for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander, Defining Moment: Anthology of Teachers’ Writing, and several other works. Washington’s newest debut is in the form of a poetry book published by Jamii Publishing, and this collection is called Sirens in Her Belly. Her new book is now on the list of several other of her accomplishments, with Sirens in Her Belly being the BET’s editor’s pick as was one of the top 12 must-reads of 2016.
When asked how the book became a reality she recounts how “A friend invited me to a poetry workshop last spring and a couple of days after the workshop, the facilitator contacted me and asked me to submit a manuscript. I gathered poems together, some I had never shown and some that had been previously published and put them in what seemed a logical format. The opening poems is what the editor chose. Some of the poems in the collection I wrote when I was 17 and others I wrote just this past summer. Working with a small press publisher allowed me more latitude where I was allowed to include art by my older son and a poem my younger son.”
The book is mainly centered on the struggles of people of color, especially women. With her prose speaking softly and at the same time having a harsh and truthful edge, it’s hard not to fall in love with every line. A collection of poems such as “Sirens in Her Belly” is much needed in today’s world, where the voices of African Americans are oftentimes suppressed and only echoes remain. “It has been said that the best writing comes from what you know. I am an African-American woman and an empath, so the struggles, stress and hardships are a part of my existence either through empathy or first-hand personal experience.” Mrs. Washington’s incredible sense of emotion is wonderfully expressed through her writing, and the poems in “Sirens in Her Belly” are definitely worth a read.
My Mother’s Voice
“My mother’s voice
Is strong like Carmen McRae
When she speaks of flowers
She just doesn’t waft in fragrance,
She goes to the root. And
My mother’s voice
Like Aretha before “Respect,”
And to the point - to the minute - TCB,
Aretha demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And
My mother’s voice
Is Harriet Tubman,
Freedom is calling,
No more wailing on the other side.
Mahalia sings with my mother’s voice, and
Maya speaks with my mother’s voice, and
Nikki smiles at the sound of truth rippling through
Sounds like wisdom,
I through I told you not to scoldings.
Sounds like hope,
Go on baby you can do it.
Sounds like love,
Everything is going to be all right.
Sounds just like - sound just like
My mother’s voice.