“YOUR story doesn't end where it begins,” is the lesson Marjorie 'DaPoet' Walters wants people to take from her work, and her lived experiences have demonstrated just that, as she speaks of the Highways, Byways & Beyond in her new book.
The author, poet, actor, songwriter, and chef told All Woman that as a child growing up in State care, she drowned herself in writing poetry as she struggled with depression and low self-esteem, but her hope now is to inspire those who may have come from a similar background as she did, to never give up.
Highways, Byways & Beyond shares Walters' commentary on some of the personal, social and economic issues she has experienced growing up in the inner city and living in poverty, with many of her poems highlighting these daily struggles. The poems also run the gamut of crime and violence, police brutality, incest, abuse, and a number of other crippling problems experienced by people living in low-income communities.
Walters said that it was after posting her work on social media that she was encouraged by a fellow poet/friend to publish, “so we got to work and the book was born September 2020”.
“It's easy, I do it effortlessly,” she says of her poetry. “I can be doing anything and a piece comes to mind. It's fun, I have more than 300 pieces and counting...”
Born in Islington, St Mary, Walters — IG: marjdapoet_author — says poetry is a gift, especially since she's a high school dropout with no certification. But, inspired by an admiration for Louise 'Ms Lou' Bennett as a youngster, and also encouraged by her network, she has flourished in the craft.
“As a child growing up I admired Ms Lou's style, so most of my writings are dialect/patios,” she shared. “Poetry brings me peace. I'm allowed to express myself, my feelings, my emotions, and also highlight facts and provoke minds.”
The youngest of 10 children, Walters' mother died when she was very young, after which she was 'adopted' and taken to Kingston.
“As a little girl, my fondest memories were growing up with this lady whom I thought was my mom — she was so loving and kind, she took excellent care and taught me to read from a tender age. It was around age 10 that I found out she wasn't my real mom, due to adoption issues, as my mom died when I was a baby,” Walters shared.
“That's how I ended up in State care, first at Glenhope Place of Safety and then Stratton Girls Home.”
There she would use poetry as her therapy.
“It was rough sharing space and stuff with so many girls of different ages and backgrounds, coming from a home where I was an only child,” she said. “Moving to the other home and attending school outside [in the general population] was challenging as [children in homes] were ridiculed and called names, so I drowned myself in writing poetry as I struggled with depression and low self-esteem.”
Walters said being a chef — she's owner of The Little Place Ur Kitchen — came by chance, a fun activity that she said ended up becoming a job, even though she had several in-between jobs — helper, babysitter, pump attendant, etc.
“I enjoy both — cooking and poetry — they're therapeutic and fun,” she shared. “You write and readers are awakened; you cook and tastebuds are awakened...”
Praised in international media as “a very talented and creative person who wears many hats”, Walters didn't always know that her life would take this path, but says she has a great support team who believes in her talent even though she's a naturally shy person.
“I wanted my work to been seen, but not me,” she says. And explaining how important it is for one's lived experiences to legitimise the sharing of lessons on overcoming adversity, she posits that “only those who live it can truthfully tell it”.
And so she wants her platform to “be the echo for inner-city women/men who feel there's no hope to look on and say, if she can I can too”, she said.
Walters has also acted in The Bartender YouTube series, and is a songwriter of the second-placed Festival song, Love Jamaica My Land.
Her book is her pride and joy though, dedicated to her daughter Shackeria, who taught her how to be a mother.
“Motherhood is everything to me because I never had the chance with mine, so we're like sisters,” she said. “And I'm a mother to many in my community.”
“My motto is: I can. I will. I must,” continued the woman who has a strong background in volunteerism with the Richmond Fellowship Foundation, which deals with substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation; as a volunteer chef for Delayed Not Denied Foundation, which was started by a group of young boys and girls in her community; a volunteer with the Citizen Security and Justice Programme; a part of Dancehall Hostel & Dance Xpressions, and several others.
As she pushes to take on the rest of 2022, she's looking forward to “more work...I've just started”. These include her second book, another Festival song, short stories, more work on The Bartender, looking for an artiste to write songs for, “and who knows, I may write a movie... just keep watching”.
Her story is one of true endurance, and the life lessons are some she wants others to look to, and learn that there are rainbows after each storm.
“You're always a work in progress — pray, work hard, believe in yourself even if no one does and one day you'll win,” is her advice to young people who may be trying to find themselves. “Don't give up.”