Jacinta White uses poetry to deal with grief and aid healing

Jacinta White will release her book of poetry inspired by African-American churches this fall.

Jacinta White uses poetry to deal with grief and aid healing
February 14
00:02 2019

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

“I went to school for communications and public relations,” Jacinta White explained recently. “I didn’t know anything about poetry.”

White has a B.A. in speech communications and public relations and a MBA in nonprofit management. She said the idea of being a poet never occurred to her until she wrote her first poem in 1995 while living in Detroit, Michigan, and was thrilled when it was published in Young Detroiter in 1996. One month later, her dad died suddenly of a heart attack and she started writing poetry to deal with her grief.

Her father was a minister and while going through his things she discovered numerous scraps of paper where he had written random thoughts. They revealed a different side of her father. This inspired her to collect his writings and put them into a book that was published in 1997.

After her father’s death, White and her mother moved to Kernersville to be closer to family. She had continued to write poetry, but she said, “I didn’t realize that poetry was healing my grief.” That healing process spawned The Word Project, which she started in 2001. She moved to Atlanta and at that time was working with urban youth. She used poetry to help them deal with the challenges they were facing. In 2005 her job brought her back to the Triad and she brought The Word Project with her.

White wanted to create a broader platform for healing poetry so in 2013 she founded Snapdragon, an online literary magazine. It has continued to grow and now receives submissions from all over the world. White said that people who tell her they don’t like poetry “just haven’t found the poet that they like. They need to keep looking because you need to hear different voices to find the one that speaks to you.”

A chance conversation with her uncle, who is a retired minister, gave her the idea to visit some of the rural churches where her father had preached. At the first church, she was inspired to write a poem. As she explored more churches, she continued to be inspired to write. Walking among the graves in the cemetery, she thought about the lives of those buried there and the stories that could be told. She knew this was something she had to write about so she applied for and received the Duke Energy Regional Artist grant. The poems and pictures of these rural African-American churches will be published in the fall by Press 53, a local publishing house.

“Resurrecting The Bones,” White says, “is a journey through African-American churches and cemeteries in the rural South.”

White has also been facilitating New Year’s Day workshops at The Healing Ground retreat center in Summerfield for over ten years. The workshops offer attendees an opportunity to reflect on the past, meditate, write, and look to the new year in a safe and accepting place.

Afterward the group comes together for a potluck meal where they can share their experiences. “It’s a great way to pause and reflect at the end of the year so I can have space for what is to come,” White explained. “This is where I truly feel the power of poetry.”

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