The newest feature of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition website is the Cultural Resources Directory. This is a tremendous resource to the community. It provides information on artists, writers, musicians, community advocates, and creatives who are involved with Appalachia and Appalachian culture. In an effort to get the word out I am talking to people who have signed up for the CRD, and I thought, what better person to begin with than Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley.
The first thing I can tell you about Desirae Hosley is that she is not silent at all. This should not really come as surprise since she is in fact a spoken word artist. Although she may be known as the “quietest person on the scene,” as her Cultural Resources Directory bio explains, her poetry is forceful and anything but quiet. I asked Desirae how she got such an unlikely nickname: “I was at an open mic night at University of Cincinnati and one of the rappers was freestyling. He looked at me, I just froze, and he dubbed me the silent poet and it stuck with me.” The paradox of the nickname works, I think, since Desirae Hosley more than proves herself with a voice that is deeply woven into the urban Appalachian community and beyond.
Desirae described her commitment to the local community by explaining that “once you are in my community, I got your back.” She walks the walk with her involvement in several teaching and community advocacy roles. Beginning with an AmeriCorps position that brought her in contact with the Urban Appalachian Council shortly before the organization was transitioning into the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, and continuing into the present doing teaching workshops on performance poetry for teenagers and adults. Desirae Hosley has been involved with UACC since 2009
Desirae Hosley’s role as a teaching poet began when she led a poetry workshop for a program facilitated by Pauletta Hansel, now a core UACC member. This began her work as a teaching poet with teenagers. Desirae continues her work teaching spoken word poetry workshops with both teenagers and adults. Desirae told me this part of her work took off quickly: “I have had people sign up from Detroit, Philadelphia, and around the country.”
Desirae said one of the purposes of her workshops is to give people an outlet for dealing with the difficulties of the times we live in. She explained that spoken word poetry offers people “outlets to deal with all that is going on: the pandemic, social issues, kids being out of school, etc.” Poetry, for Desirae Hosley, is far more than an ornament to life. Poetry is a mode of creating community as much as it offers a form of expression for individuals.
Desirae states firmly, “my art is in the truth.” This is ultimately what her spoken word poetry is about. She cites core Members Pauletta Hansel and Omope Carter Daboiku as mentors—two poets and spoken word artists who are distinguished for capturing the truth in moments of language and performance. As her bio for the CRD states, Desirae Hosley is a Spoken Word Artist and Community Organizer. Creating spaces that helps people speak their truth.
The events and circumstances of the past several months have propelled Desirae Hosley in uncharted directions that have thankfully worked out. As Desirae explains, “I was working at WordPlay, but that work got shut down due to the pandemic, so I decided this was my time to take a chance on being a working artist.” From teaching workshops on spoken word poetry to leading classes at Miami University for teenagers and adults, nothing has slowed Desirae Hosley, and certainly nothing has silenced her voice. Perhaps she is soft spoken, but the force of her poetry cannot escape notice. Take this example from a poem called “30 for 30 Take 7; Word of the day: Shadows:”
masked by fear and deception
Oh what I would give to breathe unapologetic-ally
yet these four walls will protect me from myself and do no harm
Today I will take on the world…
through filtered shadows.
The Silent Poet takes the world on directly, albeit filtered in shadows. I dare say such images capture the thoughts of many of us as we navigate uncertain times. Pay attention to the word play that animates language toward an individual perspective to a community action.
You can find information on Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley at the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition website. The link for the Cultural Resources Directory is listed below. We are fortunate to count Desirae Hosley as a voice for urban Appalachians and for all the communities that makeup greater Cincinnati. Artists like Desirae provide reasons for the existence of the Cultural Resource Directory. Any way we can get the word out about artists and creatives on the order of Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley is certainly worthwhile.
You can search the Cultural Resource Directory, or, if you are an artist, writer, poet, or creative who is tied to the Appalachian community you can register by following this link: https://uacvoice.org/directory/.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.