Charlotte Spoke to Poet Kia Flow. And, She Answered Back.
Poetry brought Kia Flow to the Queen City.
The Jacksonville, Florida native started singing and performing as a kid at church and school. That led her to do a Slam Poetry show in Greenville, North Carolina. On that trip, Flow’s group stopped in Charlotte for a night. The Queen City spoke to her. And, she felt called to answer back.
“I got a chance to see Uptown and The Music Factory,” she said. “That’s all I saw, and I went back home to Jacksonville and told my grandmother about it. She was sick in the hospital – she’s the one that raised me – and she passed away six months later. It was my grandmother’s spirit that told me I was supposed to be in Charlotte.”
In 2013, she returned for a visit. She performed at open mics and made connections with other poets. It all clicked.
“The second visit solidified it for me,” she said. “I’ve been here seven years, and it’s been a beautiful life.”
Building an Artistic Life in Charlotte
The city’s been good to her. When we spoke in early January – before another young, Black female poet made a nation stand up and take notice – Flow was getting ready to start a new job in healthcare and getting ready to get married.
Her new husband, Jeremy, is creative, too. He’s a software developer who plays guitar, sax and trumpet. He’s also a self-taught tailor who makes bespoke clothing from a sewing room in their home.
Flow finds inspiration to write in everyday things. She called her poetry “relatable” and said she feels like she, too, is relatable when she’s on stage. Her topics are universal – hard times, messing up, feeling remorse, making amends.
The first poem she ever wrote was an apology to an ex-boyfriend. She was young and had been unfaithful and wanted him to know she was sorry. It’s called “Forgiveness.” And it did what good poetry is supposed to do – it moved him. He forgave.
Not all her work is serious. She’s a comedian who identifies herself on Facebook as a “Looney, Loud Mouth, Left-Handed Libra.”
Flow is a published author (As The Flow Goes), a singer/songwriter, performer, comedian and playwright.
“I wrote a one-woman stage play, Finding My Flow. Before COVID, I performed it in New York, Philly, California and Washington, D.C. I love being able to travel and share my poetry.”
Why Vulnerability is a Strength
But, sharing brings with it its own challenges. Poets, like all artists, have to be vulnerable. They reveal something personal, and sometimes painful, of themselves and are never sure how it might be received. “When you give of yourself through poetry,” Flow said, “it’s giving your heart, and you just hope it’s properly taken care of.”
“In 2015, after my fiancé [who is now my husband] and me lost a child, I was in a dark place,” she said. “I didn’t even want to perform, and I didn’t for about half the year. And that’s when somebody got me into doing Slam Poetry in Charlotte.”
“I started doing it, but I wasn’t getting past the first round. I kept at it. Eventually, I got to the second round and then the third round. And after that, boy, I don’t know what happened. I wrote what I call Inspiration Piece. It woke me up out of my sleep. And that was the first time that I committed a poem to memory.”
In it, she reminds readers/listeners, “You are not your mistakes” and exhorts us to keep going – whatever it takes. It’s a sermon and a pep talk in rhyme:
“… You’re just
A trend setta go getta.
Only wanting betta.
You are not your mistakes. Your destiny should be worth your chase.
Adjust your focus, always being willing to listen and do whatever it takes.
No matter what the obstacle may be, keep doing it.
No matter how far fetched that idea may seem, keep pursuing it.
No matter how big or wide the mountain may be, still move it ...”
Not all Flow’s poetry is autobiographical. And that leads to what she considers the biggest challenge for a poet: “People may have trouble separating the artist from the person.”
The Power of Poetry
Writing is mostly a solitary endeavor. Preparing for a Slam is different. Flow loves the support that goes along with preparing for a Slam: “I’ve got these people that are depending on me, and they are also inspiring me, critiquing me and helping me.”
If you’re thinking poetry isn’t relevant, think back just a couple of weeks to President Biden’s inauguration when a 22-year-old Black woman (and recent Harvard grad) transfixed Americans with her poem — part sermon, part pep talk — called “The Hill We Climb.” Poetry was front and center that day, and thanks to Amanda Gorman, young people — especially young women of color — may see it as a new avenue for self-expression.
Like the rest of the nation, Flow was wowed by Gorman, the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles (2014) and the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate (2017). Flow’s message to Gorman: “Thank you for walking in your purpose, so that others can have an example and for opportunities to be birthed in the name of poetry.”
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