by Whitney D. Greer
(The Red & Black - 1997) Dawn Smith doesn’t want the poetry in her book, Cries of A Young Girl, to
represent the views of one woman, but the voices of all women. “I base my poetry on what I hear women
all over talking about, when my friends cry on my shoulder or what I overhear in public,” she said.
A 20-year old junior majoring in film, Smith said she wasn’t seeking publishers for her poetry collections,
but when a local company approached her, she couldn’t refuse. I never really saw myself as a published
author,” she said. “But when Joi Bostic (founder of Nia Pages Publishing) came to me on a whim, I
decided to try it.”
Bostic who heads the University of Georgia’s African-American Cultural Center, began Nia Pages because
she saw so many African-American writers frustrated with the publishing process. Smith’s book is the
company’s first project. “I want to show the various desires women have in life, the many perspectives we
have,” Bostic said. Popular culture dictates too often what people see as all African-American females’
experiences, she said citing Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.
For this reason, Bostic felt Smith’s poetry had a wider range of feeling that reflected the experiences of a
larger audience. “She has passion in her poetry,” Bostic said. “The messages are strong and useful,
especially for modern women.” Smith said she sees her poetry as a continuation of her family’s creativity.
“My grandfather was a songwriter, and my mom is an artist,” she said. “I’ve been writing poetry for as
long as I could write, and before I could write, I recited it.” She credits her family not only with her creative
touch, but also her strength. “Lots of things that would slow other people down in their pursuits don’t
slow me down,” Smith said.
Cheryl Sullivan, Smith’s mother, said her strength came from working so hard as an employed, single
mother. “One time she wrote a poem when she was just a little kid, telling me that she knew what I had
been through as a single mother,” Sullivan said. “She said that one day she would take care of me.”
Smith writes her poetry in all lower case letters, except when she refers to God. She said it is her way to
rebel against an old high school English teacher. “She gave me a bad grade in writing - on rules,” Smith
said. “But I believe a true writer should not have to take a class - that contains your thoughts.”
Smith often reads her poetry at various venues and events such as the annual Black Women’s Focus
Conference, which is where Bostic first heard her work.
“Sometimes people feel that I am male bashing, ”Smith said, “so I begin each reading explaining that I am not a male basher. Men are beautiful creatures. In fact, I think that even though my poetry is more focused on women, everyone can take something away.”