Last Word: Denice Lowery

This past winter, Spare Change News published Denice Lowery’s poem “Spring Time: How We Grow.” Denice wrote about growth and the cyclical phases of a person’s life using the metaphor of a seed. Beginning its life “burrowed in the soil,” the seed is nourished by the sun, sprouts leaves and eventually grows “older” and “stronger.”

Now that spring is actually upon us, it might be a good time to revisit this poem. “It’s spring time and it’s time to bloom,” Denice wrote. “The sun’s rays give me life [and] my leaves begin to sprout.”

Just when you think the poem is all about youth and vitality, things turn darker: “Now it’s winter. It’s time for me to sleep.” The poem expresses the awareness that energy and newness do not last forever but always give way to sleep. That doesn’t mean the end of life, however. As Denice states: “In the spring my seed will grow again, bringing a new life.”

Poetry isn’t the only medium Denice has used to share her story. A couple of years ago, she got to collaborate with a group of women in co-writing a play called “Writing Home.” A theater company, Stories Without Roofs, produced the play, and it showed at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Denice told her own story and saw a poem and song she wrote performed by the actress Meagan Dilworth.

“It was based on women that are homeless,” said Denice. “Some of the things we go through. Sexual abuse women go through. I played a part in it and told my story. The actress did the poem and the song.”

During our interview, Denice played me a recording of the song she wrote. It’s called “In My Dreams,” and even through the speakers of her smartphone, I can tell the words and melody are beautiful.

Denice was born in Macon, Georgia, and moved to Boston with her mother in 1968. It was then she got to experience Boston’s busing crisis firsthand after being one of the first four black girls to attend the Girls’ Latin School.

“It was awful,” she said. “Racial tensions were very high. Verbal, threatening, blocking our way in. They closed the schools and I was transferred.”

Six or seven years ago, Denice started working for Spare Change News. She returned recently and began selling papers. “I’m not homeless anymore,” she said. “The vendors have been through so much, and they’re working hard to make it. People are self-sufficient, and the paper brings awareness.”

Our interview draws to a close with a discussion of the president and the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

Denice cites Obama and Clinton as people she particularly looks up to. “It gets no better [than Obama]. He’s our first black president. He gave us free medical care. He’s doing everything for the people,” she said. “I’m voting for [Hillary Clinton]. She’s been in politics for years. She’s a woman who can hold her ground. She’s independent and strong. I like her views on things.”

In some ways, I can’t help thinking back to Denice’s poem. Now that the “winter” of Obama’s presidency is upon us, what “new life” might we see “breaking through the soil” this spring?





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