It doesn’t happen very often, but there will be times when you will read something someone halfway across the world has written and there won’t be enough finger snaps, and “Yes! Yes!”, and exclamation marks, and +1s to adequately convey how much those words hit home. They will be words you didn’t even realize you wanted to say. Needed to say. Words that carry in them so much power, and so much light, enough to illuminate your path; to make sense of your journey.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…
Such is the power of the words Te’ V. Smith put together in his book, Here We Are: Reflections of a God Gone Mad.
Through a series of serendipitous events, I got a copy of this book early last year and it won’t be an exaggeration if I say I have read it cover to cover at least two dozen times. Whether it is contained in a piece of poetry, a short story, or an essay, you can tell that each word is deliberate; purposeful. Te’ is through his own honesty and vulnerability evoking in the reader a passion strong enough to cause action, first within, then without.
This is by no means a review of the book, but I figure it’ll be a great disservice if I don’t share the gift of Te’s words with as many as cross my path. A gift of words that I find myself many times comparing to James Baldwin’s.
In Te’s words,
This collection is very much centered on God. It is a glorious surrender, exploration, and expression of faults, faith, forgiveness, and favor. This is growth at the edge of the mirror, and my hope is that you may, as I have, find yourself and some bit of freedom in the gorgeous-ugly-terrifying-liberating-questioning-confronting journey.
Excerpts from his book…
A few questions for Te’…
*Why do you create?
I create to restore the roar of my holy place, to rightly confront my divinity and my demons, I create because it is the only suitable way I have to introduce, preserve and see myself off with care. This is not something I “get to do”, this is who I am, and this is all I have ever been. I am on an unwavering quest for peace and understanding. I want to create something perpetually impressive, something that God can worship. This sounds a bit supercilious, but if we are not creating with the goal to reach the ear and heart of God, then what is any of this for? I am not here to march on Washington; I am here to march on the heavens; to call down ugly glory so that we may find salvation in it.
I am inspired by everything my soul tastes and touches; from the blooming violence of oppressive theologies – to the poetry in a tree coiled around itself. I don’t believe that one can be in this world and not be inspired, often times from dismaying disbelief, by the way in which it spins around and through us. I do believe that I am in love with a great deal of things, I feel everything and the privilege and poverty of that inspires me daily.
*If you weren’t a writer, you’d be…?
*Your creative process in a few words.
My creative process: setting a climate with, but not limited to, Charles Mingus, ginger-mint-green tea, Jamaican fruit incense, rich solitude, fresh air and natural motion.
*Your ideal life at 50.
My ideal life at 50: I’d be living on an Island perhaps, married to a beautiful soul who burns with passion for me, caring for our children, writing, lecturing, traveling, sharing good food, good art, good wine, good love and great peace.
*What do you wish you knew 10 years ago?
10 years ago, I wish I knew; or rather, I wish I were firm in the few certainties I have. 1. We don’t fall in love, we fall in safety. All of us, on this often-horrifying globe are, from the time we come to know anything of love and despair, searching to recreate the safety of Eden, where we are standing naked before universal god and love. 2. That I am a writer before I am anything else and that I ought not attempt to forsake the lone glory in that. 3. Any God worth their merit in worship, mustn’t be an external force.
*If you had to go anywhere in the world right now but only had 5 minutes to pack a bag, where would you go? What would you pack?
If I had to go anywhere, I would visit the beauty and divine culture of Lamu. If I had 5 minutes to pack a bag? Oh darling; I would spend that time making tea…there is always a bag packed.
* Currently working on…?
Currently working on a short stories series “Anbu” set in Nigeria, a three session spoken word series “The Sanctified Soul Suite”, and a docu-film project “Understanding Shadows”
* Heaven is…?
I believe that heaven is gloves off-quiet-thirst quenching-soft stillness. I believe the old man with more wisdom than teeth, I met on the side of the road in Los Angeles had it right. Heaven is the full freedom to exist at your own pace and in your own way. Heaven is burden-less branches rooted in fertile ground. Heaven is living and loving and learning without explanation.
* Tea or coffee?
TeTea, always tea.
*What puts you to sleep at night?
And because sometimes I put first things last, a brief history:
Born in East St. Louis IL. Nigeria. France. Grew up in my head. Raised by music and books. Wanted to heal the world with art. Got lost in Paducah. Jazz piano. Found myself is Paris. Read a lot. Lived. Wrote a ton. Toured with musicians and singers. Studied Systematic Theology. Wrote an album. Lived a book. Wrote for INBOX Magazine. Worked in FR. Recited poetry for Lyricist Lounge MTV/VH1. Wrote a novel. Learned a ton. Moved to St. Louis. Gospel piano. Toured more. London. Prague. Africa. Wrote songs for labels. Pursued slam poetry. Succeeded in it. Failed myself. Wanted to heal more. Flew to Madrid. Painted a print of a dream. Returned to St. Louis. Brought pride/ego with me. Too many hours. Not enough sleep. Moved to Hollywood. Destruction followed. Moved to Denver. Wrote a book. Wrote an album. Lived a talkshow. Experienced more in a year than two decades prior. Wrote a book. Moved to Philadelphia. Became a father. Growing up. Finding healing for myself. New perspective on love, life, faith, and growth. Forgiving myself. Finally published a book. Writing a novel. Painting a canvas. NOLA. No more hiding. Growing. Still want to heal the world with art. This time I start from the inside out.