When Daje Morris moved from Memphis to Knoxville in 2011, she had not yet entered the world of performance poetry. Seven years later, she is now the featured poet at a poetry expo for Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, with a mix of both nerves and enthusiasm. “I’ve just been leaning into different spaces all over Knoxville trying to see how we can communicate the heart,” said Morris.

 The expo was on March 23, and it started at 7:00 p.m. with an open mic, hosted by Lane Shuler and Johnathan “Courageous” Clark. The crowd was initially hesitant to get involved in the open mic, but participants increased exponentially, creating a lively atmosphere. Then it was Morris’s turn onstage.

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Shuler (left) and Clark (right) are poets themselves who are also hosts for the monthly Knoxville Poetry Slam. Photo by Shane Embury

She recited three pieces that were a combination of singing and poetry. For the first two, she played an acoustic guitar as she performed, and for all three, Logan Norris assisted her on the electric guitar.

  Morris started honing her poetry writing skills 15 years ago, but she did not get comfortable with performing the art until four years ago. She became part of a local collective of poets called The 5th Woman after the group’s founder, Rhea “RheaSunshine” Carmon, found Morris at an open mic and convinced her to join the group. “We write about topics that pertain to women, to the lives of women, to the stories of women that don’t typically get heard,” said Morris, “so it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”

For this particular poetry expo, Knoxville legend Black Atticus chose Morris to be a feature. Black Atticus is the host and coordinator of the Big Ears Festival’s poetry events, and he selected Morris based on her masterful ability to blend both music and poetry–a talent he said was very rare to find done successfully.

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Black Atticus is a poet and hip-hop artist who consistently graces Knoxville with more and more opportunities to listen to spoken word. Photo by Shane Embury

  Despite the nerves, Morris she said that she was looking forward to performing her final piece of the night: “Black Bird.” “For some reason, it’s the one piece that really comes alive for me every single time,” said Morris. “It’s about the process of learning that it took me to come from a broken place to pursue words, and pursue life, and pursue love and healing and live a full, wholehearted life.” 

 

 

 Fans can purchase both Morris’s poetry eBook “On Becoming Gold” and her download her music CD “The Bloom Project” on her website: www.dajemorris.com. Morris said she will not be doing much individual work for awhile but will stay active in poetry through The 5th Woman.

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