“My memory stammers, but my soul is a witness” – James Baldwin.
Grambling State University’s visitor, R. Flowers Rivera shared this quote with students and faculty during her poetry reading and book signing Thursday morning.
R. Flowers Rivera was born and raised in a small town in Mississippi before moving to Connecticut because of her father’s job. Flowers Rivera attended high school there before returning back down south to study marketing at the University of Georgia. In addition to receiving an M.S. from Georgia State University, she also received a M.A. in English from Hollins University as well as a Ph.D in English at Binghamton University. Flowers Rivera was always into reading writing at an early age. For a long period of time she felt she wrote for herself but a family member convinced her that she had a voice that needed to be shared.
The quote by James Baldwin was used to explain her obligation to articulate and appropriate the voices of her loved ones and hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi. She has proven well at that with awards such as the 1999 Peregrine Prize and the Naomi Long Madgett Award. Flowers Rivera read from her two books Troubling Accents and Heathen.
“I sense a Harlem Renaissance feel in her poetry, the baseline of Miles Davis,” said English Department Lecturer Catherine Bonner, “It resembles Zora Neal Hurston and Jamaica Kincaid.”
R. Flowers Rivera explained how her second book stemmed from her love of Greek Mythology and how she wanted tell the story through her experiences. It was also a lucky success after her first book was nominated but never awarded. La’Jatienne Pierce, an English minor from Dallas, took special notice of that success. Explaining it gave her the push to pick back up on her writing again.
When asked the difficulty in having to have a backup successor for the first book Flowers Rivera stated “I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block.”
With being a mother and a wife, Flowers Rivera explained she had to get to business and there was no time to be in a slump. Junior Franklin Nelson stated he loved R. Flowers Rivera’s work especially because of her imagery. Also because she gives insight on her work and a sense of light and creativity that benefits artist like himself. This is one of the biggest reasons for her tour and why she made a stop at Grambling for the first time.