To tell an artist to not be overly sensitive about their work is like telling a parent to not be over-protective of their child. When you birth something out of you, there’s a bond with that creation that all artists have and it’s a strong unbreakable bond.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to build a temporary bond with the lovely Pace Poetry. It was refreshing to sit down and talk for hours with someone who was unapologetically sincere, raw, and transparent about their work and about their journey. I love it that way. Pace allowed me to dig deep and she shared some of the most personal things about her journey; things so personal that the old folks back in the day would let you have it for sharing what they call family business.
It’s stories like hers that uplift us and remind us that people are real; that we are real and despite our past our future is always bright. Read on as Pace Poetry goes behind the rhymes and lines with the club and uplifts us with her words of wisdom and promise and of course she shares what she loves about the Dirty South — you know how we do!
First question we ask is what’s you’re name and where you’re from:
I am Pace Poetry. I am born and raised, never left, Houston, Texas – Southwest side. The original Southwest, not the SWAT! (Laughs)
That’s so funny because, I believe it’s the homie Dero who says it’s the SWAT:
No it’s not the SWAT. We have that debate all the time! (Laughs)
Oh man I can’t wait to reach out to him about that one. So the name, is it pronounced Donielle (like Danielle, but don)? That’s nice:
Yes, it’s Donielle. It’s easier to go by Pace because everybody gets that name wrong.
What do you do and what inspired you to do it:
I am a poet and also an author. I’ve always liked to write, but I in the last five years began performing poetry and it’s a big difference. Some people don’t understand, people are poets and then some people can perform their poetry. I was that person that wanted to just write poetry in the books like Maya Angelou and all of them and that’s it. You know who I am, but that’s about it! (Laughs)
I can’t even tell you the transition and how I even got to wanting to perform. I know the very first time I did it, without it being at a church or something, was at my sister’s open mic that she was doing at the legendary Red Cat Jazz Café and I bombed! I couldn’t remember anything. And then what’s so funny, The C.I.T.Y., was there and they were like, we got it. Go up there with your notebook we gone play and sing behind you. I always reference that story because without that and their motivation and everyone in the audience, “go back up there,” and I actually got through it. Something just stemmed in me like, I think I want to do it, I think I want to try it!
How long have you been in the game writing poetry? I know you’ve been performing, what, 5 years:
Yea, I’ve been performing 5 years. I did start writing around when I was like 15 or 16. It was, again by chance, because in my mind I always looked at songs and poetry as separate. So, I would write songs because in my mind I wanted to be Janet, til I realized I ain’t have Janet capabilities. (Laughs) So, I didn’t take poetry seriously.
In ninth grade we had the poetry projects that you had to do and I took Aaliyah songs and gave it a different title and turned that in and they were like, “we’re gonna put you in Pre-AP English.” Then in that class, I had to actually write.
I started writing outside of the classroom and found out that was an outlet for me to kind of, express myself and get through a lot of things that I was putting myself in. So, I’ve been writing consistently probably since I was 15 or 16 years old.
So, do you believe, being that young, had you had someone at that time that kind of guided you towards the creative writing piece; do you think back then you would have been like, I think I can do this:
No. I wouldn’t have been as receptive. I’ve had many teachers tell my parents that I am a writer and I was like, I don’t know what the hell they talkin’ about. (Laughs) And like I said, I separated writing from songwriting. My mind was, I’m going to be an entertainer and I am an entertainer, but in my mind, it was just this one dynamic of entertaining because that was all I knew.
Then, I started to accept it and told myself that, well, since I can’t sing (laughs); I want to be this journalist. I’m going to intern at one of these top music magazines, then I’m going to learn the game and I’m going to have my own music magazine because music is ME! You know, that was my idea. Like they say, when you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans.
Do you believe people have a greater appreciation for poetry and poets today as opposed to say back in the day, the 2000s or so:
You want me to give you the real?
Okay. I feel like that’s a yes and a no. When it comes to the audience, yes! But when it comes to the people trying to make money from it, no. I had to learn, I might hear, “you can’t hit the stage if you don’t sell this amount of tickets.” You approached me to be a part of it, now you want me to sell tickets and I’m not getting as much as you’re getting. Or with these promoters that are coming in and seeing that poetry is booming and they want to take that ride, so they come to venues like the legendary Poetry Lounge with Se7en, who’s been doing it for 17 years, scouting poets to pull them over here and they’re getting pimped. That’s bottom line. Quote me on that, they’re pimping us. And if you don’t realize that you’re being pimped, then your creativity and your artistry is not ever going to be appreciated.
It’s becoming so saturated with those type of promoters who don’t know the hard work that goes into writing a piece, to perform a piece, trying to perfect a piece; giving your all and leaving it on the stage for the audience. They just see dollar signs. I’m not saying you can’t make money from it, but appreciate the artist.
So, when you ask me that question, it’s appreciated by the audience, but the ones who are trying to make a quick buck from it because they see it’s booming? They’re not appreciative of it, they’re just seeing dollar signs and they don’t understand the work that we actually put in.
Tell me a little bit about your book, I didn’t even realize you had a book:
Awakening the Pace of Love is a memoir. So, everyone thought my first book would be poetry and I thought it would too. But, no, God had a whole other plan. Going through a last heart break I was like, you know, woe it’s me type of thing and He just kept saying write your book, write your book; the professor told you to turn your twenty-page memoir into a whole book. And I was like, first off, I don’t want everybody to know what I did. Secondly, who am I? People are only trying to get memoirs, tell-all books from people who’ve got dirt on celebrities. I don’t have no celebrity dirt. (Laughs) Me and J-Mac are friends, but we don’t have no dirt. It was just something that kept nagging and so I started to write.
In undergrad, my professor told me in his notes for my memoir, I wrote the memoir in a whole night too; twenty pages, that’s how bad of a procrastinator I am. He was like, you need to turn this into an actual book and even think about film. So fast forward to those years and me going through what I went through, I wrote it!
Awakening the Pace of Love is what got me to where I am now; mentally, spiritually, emotionally; I am who I am now and I look at so many things in a different light now because of me writing that book.
What do you hope people will get when they hear or read your work:
I think the reason why I have gotten the recognition and appreciation from so many people is because of my transparency. I strive to make sure I stay transparent. You probably ain’t gone see me blast all of my information on social media, but I tell everyone, read my work, come to my shows and you’ll know who I am.
That’s important because, we all have a story to tell, not saying everyone is going to be a writer; but we have something to share and my way is through my writing and my performing. What I hope that everyone gets is that, my passion of course; but when you leave something has touched you in a way to where it embarks change in you. You can’t grow if you’re not changing.
Talk a bit about your faith, how important your faith is to you, and where you would be without it:
My faith is everything. My faith is how I’m surviving right now! It hasn’t always been that way. I refer back to my book where, me writing help me to start to accept that God loved me. We know, God loves me, Jesus loves me; we sing it all of the time. But, when I realized, you know it but you ain’t accepted it. I had to check myself. I had to tell myself, if I had accepted His love early on, a lot of things I would not have allowed myself to go through.
How difficult is it balancing your life as an artist, mother, etc:
It was a challenge. At one point, I was not just being an artist and mother and teaching, I was also in grad school. I just literally graduated last year in 2016. I can honestly say, if my family wasn’t there to help and support it would have been a super, super struggle. I probably would have really contemplated, if not quit, but I will say my family for the most part, what they could see, understood what I was trying to do.
What do you believe is the biggest misconception about going after your dreams:
I made a post on Facebook the other day that said, so many people see the end result of where people are at, at this very moment and they think it’s easy to get there and they miss that journey. I’ve been broke, I’ve been everything; and you have to understand there is no elevator to success – period.
A lot of other misconceptions I’m seeing is, everything is just about the dollar. A lot of people are just trying to go with what’s poppin’ and what’s the trend, but is that actually your passion? Is that actually your purpose; when you wake up in the morning, it gives you so much fulfillment – to do this? Find what it is that you love to do and become the best at it. The money is going to follow you. It’s going to come after you.
The best business or personal advice you’ve ever received:
It was actually from Se7en just recently, he said you gotta pay me for my time.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for those who wish to follow in your footsteps:
As an artist, one thing I will say is, study your craft. Even though you may see me at open mics and I may be hoopin and hollerin and things like that; but when you see me quiet that’s because I’m studying. When I’m quiet and I’m observing I’m listening and I’m watching.
Also, study poetry itself; not just the performance aspect of it. My degree is in poetry, so learn the actual genre, so to speak. There’s a lot of things that you can learn. My favorite poet, on paper, is Nikki Giovanni and under her is Sylvia Plath – two totally different poets.
What was your other question, I forgot? (Laughs)
That was it, just words of encouragement or advice for those following in your footsteps:
Do it scared! That’s my motto right now. I know for a fact, I’d rather do it scared than be miserable and stressed.
How do you define success:
Success is, at the end of the day, when you go home at night, know that you did something that made a difference to someone else. Our struggles, things that we go through in life, we think it’s about us but it’s not. It’s really not about us. When you are able to actually reflect and see the impact and the influence that you made on others’ lives, that’s success.
What’s next for you, short-term, long-term:
You know what I’m going to say this and that’s just to hold me to it. This is exclusive!
Let me make sure my recorder is going (Laughs):
This is exclusive! The next thing, besides coming out with my video for Deeply Rooted; the next big thing that I just discussed, I’m gonna put a tour together of the top female poets and it’s going to be called ‘If I’m a B**ch Tour.’ I’m gonna say the actual word, but I’m just trying to be censored.
I know, I got you, I know (Laughs):
And I’m saying that because I’m holding myself accountable. That’s gonna be my next big project because I’ve been saying that it needs to be a tour of these top female poets that I know we can shut a house down.
Press pause, is that not the title of one of your pieces:
Yes! It’s the title of one of my pieces.
What do you like to do for fun:
I like Ratchet TV! (Laughs) Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives – all of that. I like the Power and Insecure, but yea I like ratchet TV.
What do you love about the Dirty South:
Maaaannn! Are we talking about the Dirty South or are we talking about H-town? (Laughs)
Just the Dirty South; I mean, I know there’s a love for H-town (Laughs):
It is nothing but love for my city. I love everything about it, our classic music, you know? But the South, I like it because, I feel like we are hospitable. It’s just a warm feeling in the South. It’s real family to me. I can go to Louisiana, I might not know anybody there, but I can end up talking to somebody and it’s just family, you know. I love being part of the South. Even with our twang and our country-ness. (Laughs)
I love it, it’s nothing like it and not to mention, the food is bomb!