J. Ivy talks poetry and dealing with emotions

J. Ivy photo by Andre' Wright Jr.
Photo credit: Andre Wright Jr.

J. Ivy’s poetry has allowed him to travel the world. He has worked with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Steve Harvey. His words allow him to to touch the world and provide inspiration and healing. We spoke with Ivy about what he does and why it resonates.

Tell everyone who you are and what you do?

What’s up world! My name is J. Ivy. I am a performance poet, writer, recording artist, author, actor, voice-over talent, mentor, and workshop facilitator. I’m naturally drawn to creativity and seeing it come to light.

For those who are new to who you are I would point them to your iconic poem from  “Never Let Me Down” from Kanye West’s College Dropout album. Why do you think that poem resonates so many years later?

That poem came straight from the Source. Before getting the call from Coodie, who was in a Los Angeles studio filming Kanye while he was working on the album, I was in the midst of a life-changing chapter. I had recently broken through years of battling bouts of pain, depression, and grievance that arose from my father not being present most of my life and ultimately his passing. It was my poem “Dear Father” and the genuine power of forgiveness that allowed me to break free of those chains. I was actually at my spot in Brooklyn writing about me and my father reconnecting before he passed away when Coodie called me about “Never Let Me Down.” Already on a high from no longer dealing with that pain, finally feeling free, and super clear about what I was here to do with my passion, I was moved with even more excitement about the idea of being on a record with Kanye, knowing that he was taking off to superstardom, and Jay Z, one of the greatest of all time. I didn’t waste any time. I told Coodie I was going to find a way to LA, then I hung up the phone, turned to a blank page, wrote down the title, wrote down the date, wrote the first line … and then my mind went blank. It was in that moment that I turned to the source, I turned to God and prayed for a poem and over the next few minutes, what was eventually heard by the world appeared on the page of my notebook. I think people resonate with the passion felt in that moment, the hope, the purpose, and mostly how God uses us as instruments to relay his love … I poured my soul out on that page and two days later in L.A., I poured it out in the booth when I was flew out to record. Today and in the years to come, I believe that energy will continue to be felt.

You have released a few books, namely Here I Am: Then and Now and Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain. Why was it important for you to write these books? 

I think it’s important for any poet or writer to create works for people because we all hold unique perspectives and experiences. We all hold pieces to this grand puzzle called life. Those keys, those works, those books inspire us, teach us, and present ideas that shift our psyche and help shape our dreams. Reading is an art that can’t be lost. Reading fuels our spirits and sparks change. Reading teaches us so much about ourselves and the world that surrounds us. In my own quest to add to the world’s library I was moved to write Here I Am: Then and Now to take a look at where we are in the world and how that inspired the lyrics of my album Here I Am, and with “Dear Father,” it was on my spirit and heart to write something about my experience and growth I was able to obtain by writing that very healing poem. I felt it necessary to extend that idea to others through the book in hopes to reconnect fathers with their children and for children to be able to find forgiveness for their fathers.

Talk about the Dear Father Letters, what is your goal here? Why should people write these letters to their fathers?

While writing the book “Dear Father” it was obvious to me and my wife/business partner, Tarrey Torae, that we wanted to invite people to use this tool as a call to action. Yes “Dear Father” is my own personal story, but it’s a story that so many can relate to. Knowing that we wanted to engage folks and encourage them to try something that worked for me and so many others. And that is to write about it. Write about your pain. Write about your experience. Write about your past so you can see your future. Write about the gaping hole that may exist due to the absence of a father so that you can start healing and moving forward with a clear heart and mind. The goal is to use the book, audio book, and curriculum to inspire people from all walks of life, whether you’re young or old, male or female, black, white, Latino, or Asian, to write a letter to your father. For some, like myself, initially it may be hard to do, but the reward found when you’re able to find the courage to let go is so gratifying. The theme is, “One Million Letters Written, One Million Hearts Healed,” and we know and have seen already the healing ability this movement has had and will have on those who are ready to break the cycle of pain, live a happy life, and lead with love.

Chicago is the home of the greatest poets in the world yet many of them have not been able to break the barriers to success.  How were you able to break down the walls?

I broke through by always believing in what I was put here for and fighting for it everyday. The fight can be exhausting, but it’s a matter of not giving up. I’ve seen this to be true with a lot of the amazing poets I know. It’s obviously their gifted and can move any crowd, but ultimately it’s their perseverance that gets them over the humps of life. On another note, you have to network. You have to move around from city to city. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to take chances. You have to eliminate any fear. I’ve found that when I move forward knowing things will happen, typically they do. Whether that’s me making it happen for myself, or a friend or colleague calling with an opportunity. The key is to not wait, get in the game, stay in the game and fight for every inch, because they’re aren’t any handouts.

What would you say is your favorite poem written by you and why?

I love each poem for different reasons and it’s hard to land on just one. I mean, “Never Let Me Down” speaks to my soul and in turn has opened up a lot of doors, but again I wouldn’t have gotten to that piece without “Dear Father.” Although it can be misconstrued for a sad piece, it’s actually the happiest, most empowering, most uplifting piece that I’ve written. The poem literally changed my life and when I get messages from folks telling me it literally saved theirs, I can’t help but be grateful for the piece. Also, I think it’s very overlooked, but the wordplay in the piece is crazy. I’m a hip-hop baby at heart and I love amazing wordplay. I love how the creativity moved this piece along with delivering a powerful message.

What do you have coming up?

Right now I’m gearing up for the release of the “Dear Father Audio Book” and album that goes with it called, “My Daddy’s Records.” I’m working on a new book and album. I’ve been co-writing Tarrey Torae’s new album, and building with Coodie & Chike on a new documentary.

What words of encouragement do you have for those following their dreams?

“If you don’t deal with your emotions, one day your emotions will deal with you.” Before you take the ride out for a spin you want to make sure it’s fine tuned and the maintenance is kept up. Just like your ride, clear your spirit of the negative things and focus on the power of your gifts. It’s so important that you trust yourself and the abilities you’ve been blessed with. When you trust it, that eliminates the fear. The fear removes any confusion that may cloud the visions you have for yourself and your future. Then clearly put in that work! Dream big, stay focused on your goals, master your craft, treat people right, don’t get discouraged with the no’s, don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you make, learn from them, never mind the naysayers, put in more work, and keep shining bright!

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