Former Sgt. John Crow hid his emotions under a mask of metaphors following his wife’s death.
After scribing his thoughts on paper, it took the spoken word artist about a year to finally stand in front of a microphone and paint a picture of his experience using his body language and the tone and inflection of his words.
“When my wife passed (in 1997), I was in a dark place,” said Crow, organizer of Killeen Poetry Slam, during a biweekly session Sept. 14 at Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center. “I had to reconnect with humanity.”
Crow, who has written too many poems to count, said inspiration comes from different places.
“When it hits you, it grabs you and it won’t let go until you finish writing,” he said. “You can’t sleep sometimes until you finish. That’s how you know it’s going to be good.”
On a good Friday, Crow said 15 poets will take the microphone and rock in front of a standing-room only crowd, oftentimes interacting with the audience.
Four Killeen poets traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to compete in the National Poetry Slam in August and received second out of 72 teams from across the U.S. and Canada.
Killeen has a good collection of poets with a lot of talent branching out from the group.
“We have been doing poetry in Killeen at least 13 years,” Crow said. “When we started, our goal was to not just be poets. We want to grow poets out of our audiences.”
Retired Sgt. Nikki “Silverback” Satchel, 41, of Killeen, said writing is therapy.
Although he gets nervous before taking the stage, Satchel tries to evoke emotion from audiences by releasing the feelings inside of him that nobody knows about.
“When I’m walking off, I’m not nervous (any) more,” said Satchel, who has been writing poetry since he was 18. “It is like my form of therapy. My poetry is for the everyday average person that goes through what I go through. I get up there to tell a story that people can relate to.”
Past experiences Satchel draws from range from bad relationships and the odyssey of dating to being divorced and parenting.
“I can’t make it up,” he said. “Everything that I write is something that I went through in my life.”
New poets are the most inspirational because they’ll approach an old topic with a fresh angle, Crow said.
“I love to see new poets get up for the first time,” he said. “They’re nervous; they’re shaking. I love to see them overcome that.”
Spc. Antoinette Harris, 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, performed for the first time Sept. 14 and was nervous before reciting a short poem she wrote earlier in the day.
Harris said she’s always loved writing and anything can inspire her.
“Whatever I feel at the time, I write about and if it’s really that strong of an emotion, it makes the poem that much better,” she said. “I could be mad, sad, angry or happy.”
Harris plans to attend future poetry slams.
“They get it,” she said. “Every metaphor, every simile, everything. They’re just vibing with it.”
Crow still thinks about the poem he wrote about his wife — the first one he’s ever written and performed.
“I go back and laugh at it because it’s so bad,” said the veteran poet.