Sunday, February 9, 2014

POET Dr. Demetrice-Anntia Worley: EVERY TONGUE MATTERS

Christal Cooper – 999 Words

“I came to believe that my words might perhaps help other people (readers) understand that they were not alone in how they felt about life.
And, perhaps, someone would find a reason to choose to find joy in her life because of something I wrote.”

Dr. Demetrice Anntia Worley, 53, takes pride in the name her mother gave her.  Demetrice according to, is also the name of  "the Greek chthonian goddess of agriculture and the protector of marriage and the social order, identified by the Romans with Ceres."

“When I began seriously writing poetry in the early 2000’s, I decided I would sign all of my creative work with my full name. Currently, I am working on having people address me as a creative artist by calling me by my first and middle names. Why do I want to do this? Because I believe my mother gave me a beautiful name that represents who I am and the strength I have as a poet/artist.”

       It was during her high school years that she received encouragement that she was a poet after all:  her English teacher Cheryl King encouraged her to write creatively and to enter the city newspaper’s writing contest, which she did.   Her short story won Honorable Mention.

       She earned her Master of Arts degree in English, her Doctorate of Arts Degree in English from Illinois State University, and has been teaching at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, for over 25 years. 

       Despite her innate gift and teaching excellence, Worley has not always given herself permission to identify herself as a poet. In fact, for almost ten year she did not write one creative piece.

     “I encountered professors who taught in my M.A.
program who made me seriously doubt my creative talent and writing skills.  For three years after I received my M.A., I taught basic writing and composition at a local community college. During those three years, even the thought of writing a poem was enough to make me feel nauseous.”

       It took her four more years to make the powerful decision that she was a poet and could no longer be silenced.    

“On that day I wrote the first lines about being silenced that would later work themselves into a poem and then into another poem and another poem and so on. By early 2000, I had a small body of poems that were strong enough to send to literary journals and poetry contests.”

 In the summer of 2004, Worley was 1 of 40 fellow attending the three week long Cave Canem Foundation Fellowship Workshop  (

During that first week, Dr. Worley wrote poems 20 hours each day.  One of the poems is the “Crown of Seven” Sonnets about the murdered and disappeared women of Juarez.  “Crown of Seven Sonnets” placed first in the Split This Rock Poetry Contest, and was published as a chapbook.

All I did was write poetry, workshop poetry, eat poetry, and talk about poetry with other Black people who had had their writing dismissed as being legitimate poetry and who were often the only Black poet in their graduate program or university position or working career choice.  For the first time in my life, I received constructive criticism from poets who understood me.  For the first time in my life, I fell in love with myself as a poet.”

       Within the next two years, she took a sabbatical from Bradley University to work one-on-one with a prize-winning and internationally known poet with the goal of changing her pages of poems into a poetry manuscript.  This involved severe editing, removing weaker poems, writing stronger poems and a large amount of revising.  She continued to do this until her mentor told her the manuscript was ready for publication. 

For the next four years, she submitted “Tongues in My Mouth” to 40 different publishers and first book publishing contests, being rejected each time, until her 41st submission, to Main Street Rag Publishing where her manuscript was accepted.

       “Tongues in My Mouth”, published in March of 2011, is 92 pages long with four sections:  Articulate, Vocalize, Outline, and Testify.  Articulate has 13 poems; Vocalize is one long poem, broken up into 7 connected sonnets; Outline has 14 poems; and Testify has 9 poems.

       Some of the poems describe Worley’s witness and childhood experience at the age of eight, learning about Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination while watching an episode of “Bewitched.” 

     Other poems address the issues of domestic violence, rape, oppression, redemption, and freedom.      

Worley writes most of her poems in her home office, consisting of six 84-inch oak bookcases filled with poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama.  Next to the bookshelves, is a large wooden teacher’s desk that she purchased from monies earned co-editing “African American Literature:  An Anthology” (McGraw-Hill).  There is also a three-drawer wooden file cabinet overflowing with rough drafts of everything she has written since she was in high school.  There is also a computer desk, and two windows.

“I revise my poems primarily at my computer which is located in front of the window facing my front yard. I have the joy of seeing the sky, grass or snow, squirrels, birds, and the every changing giant maple tree, which shades my home and yard.”

     The majority of the poems in “Tongues in My
Mouth” were written between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM, which Worley describes as her most productive writing time.

“There is something about the silence that fills my home during this time period that brings me a great feeling of peace. I actually like listening to the refrigerator or central air or furnace click on or off as I create and revise lines and images in poems.”

Worley loves to teach, but she insists on identifying herself as Poet before Teacher.  

“Now, I explain to people that I am a Poet who supports her lifestyle as an English professor. Do not get me wrong, I love teaching, but I am a Poet, first and foremost.” 

*Photo Description And Copyright Info 

Photo 1, 5, 6, 7, 12, 20, and 22
Demetrice-Anntia Worley.  Copyright by Demetrice-Anntia Worley.

Photo 2
Demeter, enthroned and extending her hand in a benediction toward the kneeling Metaneira, who offers the triune wheat (c. 340 BC)  Public Domain

Photo 3
Mother and daughter (Demetrice-Anntia Worley).  Copyright by Demetice-Anntia Worley.

Photo 4
Demetrice-Anntia Worley during high school.  Copyright by Demetrice-Anntia Worley.

Photo 8, 15, 21
Copies of “Tongues In My Mouth”

Photo 9
Cave Canum logo.

Photo 10
Demetrice-Anntia Worley writing.  Copyright by Demetrice-Anntia Worley.

Photo 11
Jacket cover of the chapbook “Femicide/Femicidio  The Murdered and Disappeared Women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico A Crown of Sonnets”

Photo 13
Jacket cover of “Tongues In My Mouth”

Photo 14
Main Street Rag Publishing Company logo

Photo 16a
“Bewitched” logo.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 16b
W-E View of the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel, part of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The wreath marks the approximate site.  Creative Commons Attrribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Photo 17, 19
Demetrice-Anntia Worley giving a reading from “Tongues In My Mouth”

Photo 18
Jacket cover of “African American Literature An Anthology”

No comments:

Post a Comment