By The Chapter & Verse Team » Alison Clarke, winner of the annual Women in 2009 Poetry Contest, says she chose Rosa Parks as the subject of her poem because she proved an average person could change the world, “one act at a time”.
The poem, One Of Us, earned Alison the top prize of US$110.
“It feels good to have won the contest,” she said in an interview. “I am happy being a poet, but it is nice to have the bonus of winning one.”
Excerpts from the interview:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry since grade six, and it is something that I have always enjoyed.
Why did you choose One Of Us to submit into this contest?
I chose One Of Us because I believe in this poem, and what it has to say.
Great choice of using Rosa Parks. Why did you choose her for this poem?
I chose her (Rosa Parks) for this poem because she represents the average person. She is not a lawyer or doctor, but someone just like us. She is not rich. She is not poor. She is doing what she has to do to live. Rosa Parks represents the power of any man or woman to effect change. Her one simple action was to refuse to give up her seat for a white man. But by doing that one single action, it started a chain reaction that was heard around the world. By standing up for herself, by going to jail, she was saying, "Enough is enough." She reacted like our ancestors, by being militant any way you can.
I saw a T.V. special dedicated to Rosa Parks, and many actors, actresses, and musicians paid tribute to her. This was in the 90's, and I was so moved by what I saw. I think that she was in her 70's at that point. She still looked radiant, alive, and strong. Her quiet, and relaxed demeanour was evident, but you could tell that she had a spirit of steel. Her strength was obvious, even though she came across as anyone's grandmother. This classy, beautiful, peaceful woman still had a spark in her eyes. You could sense her fire, her energy, her commitment to life, as well as the civil rights movement. It was a great thing to see.
Can you tell us about the meaning of this poem to you?
When a friend told me about Rosa's passing, I had to ponder, meditate, take a moment to think about what her actions meant to me. To me it meant freedom, as a black woman, the power to speak your mind through actions, as well as words. To me, it meant that an average person can change the world - one act at a time. We are more powerful than we think. We, as individuals, can effect change. Rosa did this - did she know that she would have this kind of impact? Probably not, but she did what she thought was right. And a whole nation, a whole world was behind her--that is the power of being human. That is why I chose Rosa Parks as a subject for my poem. It also means to me that women - all women - can change the world.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I will be putting out a collection of poems focussing on health issues. I would like to send it to people in the healthcare field who will find it useful. I hope to put it this year. I will continue to do poetry CDs, and am working on creating some poetry DVDs. I will continue to create poetry and prose.
What words of encouragement would you have for new writers?
I would encourage new writers to be persistent. Don't give up - believe in yourself, and your work. Don't be put off by rejections--there are many writers whose work was rejected, until they had someone who recognized their talents. You have to keep going, and take any opportunities to display your work. This is important for any artist, not just writers.