Local poet makes impact on senior English major

On Nov. 13, I had the privilege of attending Teneice Durrant Delgado’s poetry reading in the Eva G. Farris Reading Room at NKU. Delgado has published three chapbooks, most recently a collection of poems entitled “Burden of Solace.” Prior to her reading, the author provided a brief explanation regarding the history of the collection’s time period. She informed the audience that, in the early 1600s, England was intent on developing slave trade routes with the Caribbean Islands and seized some twenty to fifty thousand citizens of Ireland, particularly women, to fulfill that mission. The women’s sole purpose was to provide physical and emotional solace to the laborers on islands, such as Barbados.

Delgado read four poems from “Burden of Solace.” The first was “Susan” the name of a ship that carried English and Scottish women across the ocean to the islands. In the poem, the speaker asks if the ship can tell the difference between its passengers – these, who are white, from previous passengers, who were black. A second poem “Mary Margaret” is a persona poem about a woman who married a landlord and hid her young daughter in the attic in order to keep her from being taken as a slave.

“Not John” was my favorite poem. The speaker reveals the inner strength of the slave known as “Not John.” Not John takes his beatings without flinching, and even though he can speak a little English, he refuses to “…waste/ his mothers’ tongues/ on rotting, sugar/sharp mouths.” I particularly liked this poem on paper. The line breaks are effective, and the enjambments force readers to pause on unusual, powerful words, like “tongues.” The last poem from “Burden of Solace” was “Breeding Hut.” The slaves, black and white, were forced to breed other slaves for the masters. This poem makes the point that even if a woman bears a son, he is not really her son at all.

During the last ten minutes of the reading, Delgado read a few poems from her collection called “The Goldilocks Complex” and a moving poem “Eulogy in Concourse D, Eight Months Later” about a beloved poet who had recently passed away. This last poem seemed to hold a special significance for the author, as she read “Your name drowned/in my mouth/for weeks.” She told the audience she wrote the poem in an airport terminal and stumbled upon the significance of the writing process in the final word, “terminal.”

After the reading, Delgado answered several questions about her experiences as a poet. What I will take away most from this literary event is how she sought inspiration for “Burden of Solace.” The content is a found subject. Delgado was browsing in a bookstore and found a book called “Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl.” Reading the book was only the beginning of her research. She admitted information about this period of time was scarce, but found a few other accounts written by missionaries. She also discovered that another reason plantation masters forced their African and Irish slaves to breed was to produce, what they considered, a more pleasing skin color for the house staff. At one point, Delgado asked the audience to imagine the horror of being taken from your home, literally kidnapped, and then being forced to give comfort to your captors.

As a writer, I can’t think of a more worthy goal than to find a hidden slice of history and give it new life through poetry. Hours after the reading, I celebrated these lives as a whole. I don’t know their names, and I can’t even imagine how they managed to survive. But thanks to Delgado, the horrors they suffered have been revealed, compelling us to always strive for greater humanity.
Lauren Lombardo is a senior English major at NKU, with a focus on creative writing. She has attended several literary events on campus and found Delgado’s especially moving.