What’s in a Name? Writing with Cincinnati State

Poetry Month began early for the fine folks at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Professor Geoffrey Woolf extended the kind invitation to me to help get students, staff and faculty warmed up for their first annual Poetry Month Celebration by leading a writing workshop, “Writing our Lives.” Here’s what we came up with!

Our Names

In my name, infinite notions live.
I was born named Ngaame
but I prefer to be called yellow
because I love bright colors.
Flashy, sequined, and unapologetic.
If my name was a scene it
would be a multitude of colors,
existing in a sunrise over the ocean.
My name was Ross until I goofed
and was born female.
I was named Ashley to end a fight
with someone who didn’t stay to raise me
Raymond was not me,
it was the other
who existed only on paper.
Stuck with the syllables
of a language that doesn’t match,
they gave me an “e” instead of an “a”
so I’m left wondering if I’m ever “e”nough.
Now I walk with rage running amok,
and the destruction is ever growing.
It is the spectacle marveled at, teased,
tossed in the corner where the weird names hide.
Never daring to say them aloud—
Margarette, Maura, Michael, Martin.
The statement is one in the same.
I exist, but not in name.
I am digging to find myself again.

My name used to be daughter,
beloved girl.
Now I am Mom,
earned from twice giving birth,
a name honored by a dirty oven and sticky floor,
or “Mrs. J.”, a cherished name,
reflecting my passion, teaching.
Celebrations change to honor the presence
of those who laugh to go on living,
reminiscing on past encounters
and life’s dream.

I knew I’d be different
once I learned my own name.
My name is loyalty.
Who could want more?
My name will make you rip your heart out
and serve it to me on a golden platter.
Don’t worry, I keep Band-Aids in my wallet.
Laugh. You have a powerful name.

My name did not make me, I made my name.
My name is no one else but myself,
enabling me to view life with such simplicity.
I will not have it any other way.
Hear me, see me, know me
and you will never forget my name.

By students, staff and faculty of Cincinnati State’s “Writing Our Lives” workshop, March 15, 2017. Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Other activities are a student poetry contest and a reading series to take place at noon on April Wednesdays:
4/5 Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, Desirae Hosley (AKA “The Silent Poet”) and contest winners
4/12 Ralph La Charity, Robert Murphy and contest honorable mentions
4/19 Elese Daniel, Scott Holzman and contest honorable mentions

For more information visit the Facebook page, Poetry Month at Cincinnati State

Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memorist, teacher and editor. On April 15, 2016 she was named Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate. Pauletta is author of five poetry collections, Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015), The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications, 2011), What I Did There (Dos Madres Press, 2011), First Person (Dos Madres Press, 2007) and Divining (WovenWord Press, 2002). Her poetry has been featured recently in journals including Talisman, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose and Still: The Journal, and anthologized in Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia; Motif: Come What May; and Motif: All the Livelong Day. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is a co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

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