Poet Shares Book with Allen Temple
Published poet Willie Mae Crump signed copies of her book Rhymes for Reasons: A Personal Journey of Prose and Prayer last week for fellow congregants of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church.
Willie Mae Crump will always remember the day in 1972 when she made her friend Clella Pranty cry, perhaps because it was the same day she began to fully understand the true power of her own poetry.
As a new bride who was getting ready to move to New Jersey with her husband Lionel, Crump had received the departing gift of a huge dictionary from Pranty, a colleague from the Silver Burdett Publishing Company.
"I wrote a Thank You note to her in the form of a poem," Crump said. "And I remember to this very day the last sentence in the poem:
'My experiences may come, and my jobs may vary, but I'll never forget who gave me this beautiful dictionary.'"
Crump said she read the note, and tears started streaming down her cheeks.
"At that moment, I thought, 'Well, maybe there's something to this poetry writing.'"
Now the author of her first published volume of poetry Rhymes for Reasons: A Personal Journey of Prose and Prayer , Crump remembers being encouraged through the years by appreciative family and friends, for whom she'd begun writing special poems for birthdays, anniversaries, condolence letters and "get well" greetings.
"I love to make gift baskets and often attach a poem," Crump said. "And people seem to be blessed by it."
But although Crump certainly loved to write for special occasions, she often still balked at the idea of publishing any of her own work.
It wasn't until she was inspired by a few of her fellow congregants at Woodstock's Allen Temple AME Church that she finally began taking the dream to heart.
Since Crump joined Allen Temple in September of 1996, she has been called to serve several of their ministries, and the Pastor Carl Moore appointed her as a stewardess of the church, which Crump admits is a great honor.
In 2005, the pastor even approached her about being the Christian Education director for the church.
"I didn't think I had the skill, the knowledge level or the expertise to do it," Crump said. "But he told me, 'I have faith that you can'. And I said, 'Pastor Moore, if you believe that I can, then I am willing to tackle it'."
It was with this kind of support and encouragement Pastor Moore and other members of Allen Temple were also able to persuade Crump what a special talent she possessed in her writing.
Reverend Doreen Langston, who has since moved to California, believed in Crump's work so much that she wrote a check for "seed money" to begin the publishing process. Still hesitant, however, Crump left the check untouched in a desk drawer for three years.
Then on Nov. 29 of last year, Crump walked away from a "spiritual gift class" that left her resolute that she couldn't bury her talents any longer.
"I said, 'Today, Lord, I'm going to do what you've gifted me to do'," Crump recalls. "'I'm going to write poetry, and I'm going to write a book'."
The author still harbors a tremendous gratitude to Langston and dedicated the book to her.
"She believed in me years before I had faith in myself," Crump said.
The poet hasn't slowed down her writing since the release of her book, and she has now shifted her focus to poetry based on different sermons she hears.
"I seem to love the spiritual aspect of it. I can go to the scriptures, and the words just come into my head effortlessly," Crump said. "So I know that it has to be a gift from God because I don't have to struggle to do it."
Crump often stays up into the wee hours of the morning when the house is quiet and touts meditation and "being still" as essential to the creative process.
"Spiritually speaking, I've come to the realization that you can not hear from God if you're all over the place. You have to get still sometimes," Crump advised. "And I find that when I'm quiet, and I'm still, I can really get the words I'm supposed to."
Perhaps most importantly, Crump said she hopes her ability to channel that "divine guidance" will serve as an opportunity to bolster the emotional and spiritual well being of anyone who might read her words in the future.
"I pray that whatever I write will be an inspiration or encouragement to somebody, or just to lift someone's spirit," Crump said. "So when I write, I always write with that in mind. It's just the beginning for me to do the things that God has abled me to do."