Words can be a powerful tool to spread love, inspire, unite and motivate. Symana Dillingham better known as Symana She Speaks has taken her talent of being a poet and infused her message into the art of the Spoken Word. Her message is unique, powerful, uplifting, motivating and inspirational. With her strong stage presence Symana She Speaks has become Cincy’s Queen of the Spoken Word. Just before Symana left Cincinnati to help take her career to the next level, SayWhatNews sat down and spoke with the auburn/red headed beauty and discussed her journey, craft and future:
SayWhatNews: Good morning Symana. Thanks for speaking with SayWhatNews. First tell us who is Symana She Speaks?
Symana: Thank you for allowing me to speak with SayWhatNews, It is an honor indeed.
Well I am a writer, an author, a concerned citizen, a poet, a mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I am a person that wakes up and realizes that the world could be fine without me or if I choose it could be great with and prayerfully because of me. I am Symana and to me that means trying to find my purpose and then live up to it in my own unique way, daily.
SayWhatNews: Symana, you started writing poetry at a young age. What inspired your love for poetry?
Symana: It was actually my only option. I was a lost child and writing found me. It saved me, literally. There were so many times that had it not been for my paper and pen, I would have self-imploded. My life was one of silence; I never spoke about my feelings, my hurts, my concerns, and my joys… out of fear or whatever. But I did write. And in doing so I found my voice.
SayWhatNews: There are a few black poets who have become household names like Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes. Which poet/s influenced you growing up?
Symana: Actually I didn’t even know that what I was writing had a name. So when I was very young I didn’t realize that there were people out there doing this poetry thing for centuries. But as I became aware those very people you just named became my inspirations. Although I must admit that I never read any of their completed works. I always had this fear that if I did so; I would pick up their voice and lose my own. I have always hoped to be authentically me, although at times I am not always sure who exactly that is. So I must say all the greats inspire me (if not via any particular piece of work) certainly their journeys.
SayWhatNews: In May of 2010, you entered the Spoken Word scene. What inspired you to become a Spoken Word artist?
Symana: For the second time in my life poetry saved my life. I was plagued by migraines to the point I was seeing doctor after doctor and I remember thinking my days were numbered, I hadn’t picked up a poetry pen in years. And I prayed that God would allow me to return to my first love (poetry) before I checked out. And He was gracious enough to do just that! I never set out to become an artist (well known or otherwise) I just wanted to write again. Oh but God!
SayWhatNews: For those unfamiliar with the Spoken Word art form can you explain what it is?
Symana: It is poetry in motion. Spoken Word takes a poem and breathes life into every word. Spoken Word gives each poem legs, to dance, a voice to sing. It takes all of the rules of poetry and allows the artist to redefine them based on their deep interpretation and genuine realization of what the words of any poem means to them. Spoken word is a living, breathing, ever changing thing that can only be defined by its author…
SayWhatNews: “Symana She Speaks…Love” is the name of your first book. What inspired you to write a collection of poems about love?
Symana: Well I felt it was time. I felt that my binders of poems needed a home. And after all they had done for me I hoped to return the favor. It’s not an easy thing to share your thoughts in such a public way. However, I have always been aware that we are alive to give; and giving in transparent ways scratches my itch. So I set down and decided to do just that. And that was just the beginning. There are certainly more books to come. I stated with LOVE because there is no greater gift…
SayWhatNews: What is the message in your book “Symana She Speaks…Love” that you want your readers to grasp?
Symana: When reading my book I would hope that the reader finds strength in knowing they are not alone. That someone other than them understands heartbreak, failure, fear of success, etc. I would love for the book to allow those who can’t relate to my struggles (because I know that not all people will or do) to at least respect my climb. At our core LOVE is all we really need even if we don’t acknowledge it. I hope that my book will give wings to just one person that’s afraid to fly, afraid to cry, afraid to love.
SayWhatNews: Symana, I see you also released your debut CD, “Finally….She Speaks”. What can fans expect from this body of work?
Symana: Oh that CD! Well let me first say that as artist we can be cursed with being our own worst critic. And I find little to cheer about in this CD. Other than the fact that I did it! I can say it’s complete. But there are so many errors that I personally hear in the delivery of the pieces, that I find it hard to truly applaud it. However, I do not despise it primarily because so many people have told me that it spoke to them. So I guess the lesson is to be true to who you are as an artist and never allow those you deem as more knowledgeable to change your God given flow. And if you do make that mistake (as I did) embrace it and use it to do better, be better, next time…
SayWhatNews: The majority of artists find inspiration from their own lives or things that they have witnessed first-hand when writing a new song, a book or movie. Where do you get your inspiration from when writing a poem? For example, “Salle Mae” what inspired this Spoken Word piece?
Symana: I agree that inspiration, for the most part is personal. And the Sallie Mae piece is certainly a great example. The back drop to that story is, that for over a decade (before returning to poetry) I was saturated in the word of God I only listened to gospel music. I was a church secretary, in the choir (although I can’t hold a note). I taught Sunday school and ministered the Word regularly. I hadn’t uttered a curse word in like 20 years!
So when Sallie Mae came to me I was mortified by the language, so I kept rebuking it! I refused to write it down but night after night it would return to me for 2 weeks straight. Finally, I gave in and conceded to the heavens that I would just write it down so it could leave me alone. But I swore I’d never read it aloud. Well one day I’m at an open mic and the nudge returned. Everything in me said read it, Symana! And so I did and the rest is history! Sallie Mae has become one of my most requested pieces, I literally get asked to spit it every time I step on stage.
So the lesson for me is, it is one thing to ask to be free. And it is a completely other thing to walk in that freedom. A curse word doesn’t mean I’ve lost my way. That God no longer finds glory in my story. I don’t know why He chose to give that piece to me. But I do know all that I write is conceived by Him and I have made the wise decision to not question the conception, but to simply deliver!
Inspirations come from grass, people holding hands, a baby looking in the eyes of its father, and yes that tyrant Sallie Mae. It’s not my job to seek inspiration as much as it is to except when and how it comes.
SayWhatNews: What is your writing routine when you are working on a new poem? For example--Do you need to be in a quiet room or sitting on a bench in the park with the back drop being the Ohio River and etc?
Symana: I honestly don’t have a writing routine. But I do think I need one. I can’t conjure up writing I have to be inspired. So I find myself texting myself thoughts as they come. I grab a napkin at a restaurant and pour out line after line. When it hits me I just try to stop what I’m doing and give it my undivided attention. My goal is to one day set aside ‘writing time’ but for now I just try to be obedient to that pull when and where ever it grabs me.
SayWhatNews: Symana you have become one of Cincinnati’s well known Spoken Word artist. How amazing is it for you to see your work enjoyed and loved by many?
Symana: Well I must say it is completely humbling to find myself in this position. I love those who wrong me, I pray for those that misunderstand me, I am aware of those who don’t care for me. But more than anything I am blessed to be able to love those that genuinely love me or at least love my work. Being accepted at this stage in my life is liberating to say the least. I have never been the coolest, the pretiest, the smartest, but their love has shown me that I never needed to be any of those things. Being me for them, for me, for God, is enough! And that knowledge humbles me beyond words.
SayWhatNews: You have shared the stage with some amazing artist like Fantasia, Marsha Ambrosius, Erykah Badu, Johnny Gill, Nikki Giovanni, Kym Whitley and many more. That experience alone must blow your mind. Has there been one moment that sticks out of your mind from the rest where maybe a famous artist gave you advice or said something to you that just resonated with you?
Symana: Yes indeed sharing space with those people was as amazing as they are. What sticks out for me and what I recall often are the words I received regarding my performance jitters. I mean when I leave the stage rather it is a neighborhood open mic or an arena with thousands of people. My knee, hands, my being, literally shakes uncontrollably. Well any who both Erykah Badu and Marsha Ambrosius noticed and independently gave me the same advice. Basically they told me that those nerves will keep me honest, that the jitters are proof that I want to please those that listen to my words, and that if I ever lose that feeling, it’s time to sit down. What I took from that was the realization that the moment I become complacent, the moment I start to thinking I’m all that… in that moment I will become of little use to the world! Deep, right? I live by those words to this day and I hope I always will.
SayWhatNews: Yes, very deep and something to think about. Now, I have to ask, what was it like sharing a stage with the iconic Nikki Giovanni?
Symana: OMG meeting Nikki Giovani was surreal. I thought I was just going to sit in the audience and I would have been over the top with just that. But to my surprise I was called up to read for her, for Nikki Giovani!!! My God! I was beyond honored and felt then and now that God sho’ nuff takes care of me! She was so appreciative of my piece. She embraced my stare. She allowed me to see her as a fellow poet, author, and woman. She without saying a word griped my hand and with one squeeze showed me that to her, in that moment, I mattered! It’s not often that encounters change you, but that ONE did. After the fanfare she took my book, told me, to remain true. She said she, loved my poem. And to, keep it up! I meet a legend and walked away knowing a sister- friend a woman that (just as so many of us do) aspired to be but took it one step further and BECAME. I want to be just like her when I grow up. She is a quiet yet powerful inspirational storm…
SayWhatNews: Besides writing poems and being a Spoken Word artist, you are also a Motivational Speaker. How can someone get in contact with you for an event?
Symana: I can be reached via:
Twitter at https://twitter.com/SymanaSheSpeaks
Instagram at http://instagram.com/symanashespeaks
And of course via email firstname.lastname@example.org
My website will be up within a few weeks and I’ll share the link on all the above outlets.
SayWhatNews: What’s next in the future for Symana She Speaks?
Symana: What’s next? Great question… I hope to keep allowing God to use me. I pray for the strength and wisdom to hear His voice and to walk through each door He opens. I look forward to the future although I have no idea where I will land. I wish God would tell me what my ends gonna be. But He is wise enough to know that If He did so I’d probably run in fear.
My prayer is that I walk in every situation and change it for the better. My heart is full of love for those that are lost, silent, and often forgotten. My desire is to be to millions what poetry was and is to me and that is a life jacket, a safe place, a reason to keep breathing…
So if my end will include any or all of those things; you may find me rich or poor, married or single, young or extremely old, but you’ll find me happy, blessed, and aware, that sometimes the greatest blessing aren’t in the destination but in the ride! And I plan to ride this life until the wheels fall off.
Since this interview with SayWhatNews, Symana She Speaks has left her home in Cincinnati and embarked on a new venture down south in Atlanta, Georgia to bigger and better things with her career. The Family at SayWhatNews wish her many blessings as her well deserved star shines brighter with success.