MLK poet uses images of money to describe relationships

Saturday, Jan. 15 marked the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Spoken Word Contest hosted by Mike Guinn Entertainment at The Foundry Coffeehouse in Tyler. Four poets took the stage to win cash prizes. Their titles ranged from “I’m More than You Think I Am” to “I Was Born to Do This” to “You Will Never Know the Real Me.”

TeOsha Mayo reads “Gamblers Anonymous” at the 2022 MLK Spoken Word Contest at The Foundry Coffeehouse Saturday, Jan. 15. 📷Michael Guinn

TeOsha Mayo of Longview, Texas, took first place with her original works, “Gamblers Anonymous” and “Nature of Our Love.” Mayo said she began writing poetry in third grade.

“Gamblers Anonymous” was borne out of her personal experience of a lifetime of looking out for others — at times to her own detriment. “I’m just now reaching a point in life where I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m putting all my money in this machine and it’s not giving me anything,'” said Mayo.

“Gamblers Anonymous” is replete with money and gambling language to describe Mayo’s experience: payout, winning big, profit, debt and deficits. “Metaphor is my thing,” she said. “I’ve always been able to speak through that. That’s the best way to communicate … to compare to something that’s familiar.”

Keiston Reece, MLK Spoken Word Contest judge, opened the evening with his poem, “Dear Dr. King.”

Mike Guinn, the host and emcee of the contest, said the evening was all about honoring Dr. King and freedom of speech.

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and attends Sam Houston State University remotely, where she studies sociology. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.