English Department Adjunct Publishes Profound Poetry

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, an adjunct professor in York’s English Department, recently published her first book of poetry.

Karma’s Footsteps while small in page numbers packs a wallop in content. It covers a range of topics so perfectly constructed it announces that a profound new voice has just been detonated in the canon of contemporary literature.

Themes range from “blinded compromise” in “Her Voice” to lynchings in Mississippi in “I Was There” and are poignant and evocative. “Forced Entry,” powerfully employs metaphor to address the psychological damage of rape and induce empathy with the victim in the poem:

“He broke into me-/stole something,/Brazen thief/Never charged with forced entry,/and no one sees the bruise prints/the scratch marks on my spirit-these don’t make police reports./The dignity missing from my step/doesn’t qualify as physical evidence….”

And while Tallie started life as a girl in Lefrak City housing in Queens, her sensibilities as an adult have also been shaped by a larger world view. She has taught at Rundu College of Education in the African nation of Namibia; and participated in poetry readings in Amsterdam where she has also lived for a year and a half. She has worked in London as a poetry coach at Hackney Secondary School, and in Belgium. Back in the United States she has taught at Medgar Evers College and taught a course at Pratt Institute, before coming to York.

The book was a labor of love for its enchanting author.

“It took six years between acceptance [of the manuscript] and publication,” said Tallie. “I had a baby then moved from Belgium back to New York.”

Ekere Tallie studied radio, TV and film at Clark Atlanta University where she earned her undergraduate degree. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Mills College in Oakland, California. At York she teaches English 125 and fittingly, English 200, Understanding Literature.

“The York College English Department is privileged to have Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, a powerfully talented poet and teacher, on our faculty,” said Dr. Linda Grasso, chairperson. “Professor Tallie's passionate belief that writing matters because it enables creativity, hope, healing, and historical memory, inspires students to care about language, and what language makes possible. ‘It is writing/despite the facts/to create new ones.’”

Tallie, a budding herbalist, has received funding for her research from Queens Council of the Arts and traces her literary influence to the Black Arts Movement, among others. But before the publication of her first collected works, some of Tallie’s poems had already been featured in several anthologies including Listen Up! and Def Jam Poetry. The mother of two young daughters also produces poetry videos with her husband. Her productivity bodes well for her department according to Grasso.

“Professor Tallie is a wonderful role model, showing students that they can succeed academically and creatively if they are ‘like bamboo,’ bending and not breaking, bouncing back ‘not always graceful/but taller/always taller,’ ultimately realizing they can ‘choose to stand again.’"

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