Poetry the path to success, sayeth the poet

by Daniel Bayer

Forget the myth of the starving poet, laboring in his unheated room to write sonnets that won’t be appreciated until years after he’s dead and buried in a pauper’s grave.

‘“I want money!’” says Greensboro poet Clement Mallory in one of his poems. While it may appall those who view the role of the artist as being ascetically removed from the temptations of a materialistic society, Mallory’s realistic take on the relationship of art and commerce can be traced back to his fatherless childhood in Brooklyn’s notoriously tough Brownsville neighborhood, plus the need to support his two children.

Now he hopes to pass that can-do spirit on to a new generation with his Empowering Youth Poetry program.

‘“We’re here definitely to praise most high,’” says Mallory. ‘“That’s what we’re automatically going to do. It’s just in us to do that. But I also think that at this time in society, we’ve got to make money and I want the youth to make money, but make honest money.

‘“I started my business, C37Words, in 2002,’” says Mallory, ‘“and I started doing a lot of workshops in 2003. In 2005 is when I really picked up on doing workshops with the youth. I feel it’s very important that they know that this is an avenue in which they can make money, because they want to make money. Everyone wants to make money. DMX hit me in my head and belly. It was like, ‘You know what we’re here for? Money!””

Mallory rattles off an impressive list of sponsors who have lined up behind his vision of youth empowerment.

‘“The YWCA Save Our Students program is involved. Parks and Recreation’s Youth First is involved. Muhammad Mosque Number 92 is involved. Smart Kids TLC is involved. Salvation Army Boys and Girls is involved. Youth Focus and the Greensboro Public Library are involved.

‘“The purpose of the program is to prepare our youth to become successful entrepreneurs.’” Participants in the program are currently working on a book of their own poetry, which they will market at a youth festival later this summer, says Mallory.

‘“They get a certificate so they can look back and say ‘Wow, I accomplished this, so I can accomplish something else I venture into.’ The program definitely builds self-esteem.’”

Mallory is also one of Them Five, the group that organizes the Beautiful Black Woman Festival every spring.

‘“We put on a lot of festivals,’” says Mallory. ‘“We also put on the African Unity and Opportunity Festival, which will be in November.’”

Mallory moved to Greensboro with his wife ‘— they’re now separated ‘— in 1999.

‘“I just wanted to leave New York at that time. I always felt New York was Babylon the Great,’” says Mallory, ‘“and I follow what the scriptures say, ‘Get out of here!’ So I left.’”

‘“The writing of the poetry started in 1992,’” says Mallory. ‘“The performance aspect of the poetry started when I was ten. I did a lot of acting, a lot of elementary school plays, a lot of plays in the community, a lot of singing on stage, a lot of art on trains, a lot of art on paper.’”

Mallory was inspired to make the jump to the written word after reading the poems of Lyrical Swift Dante, or ‘“LSD,’” while in college in 1991.

‘“He was basically into the hip-hop aspect of the poetry,’” says Mallory. ‘“He got me into writing lyrics. From that point on I just started writing.

‘“Now I’m really feeling people like August Wilson. I love Nikki Giovanni. I love Langston Hughes, [Paul] Laurence Dunbar, Saul Williams’… I could go on and on and on. I just wanted to give tribute to a lot of poets in a particular poem I wrote called ‘Black Poets’ that mentions a lot of my favorite poets, but there’s so much more out there that I really, really enjoy listening to. I love every poet. I love life.

‘“I think of poetry as life, what a person thinks, feels, and experience,’” says Mallory. ‘“You express what you think, feel and experience through written words, body language, art, listening, eating. Every aspect of life is poetry.’”

Mallory released his first CD of poetry, 3-15-70, in 2004 and sold it to anyone who had $5 to pay for it. He’s currently working on his second CD, C37: Words of a Poet, a collaboration with area jazz musicians, at the Greensboro Recording Collective.

‘“It should be out in October or November,’” says Mallory. ‘“I’m working with the Junior Jazz and Java organization. I probably will have some beats made, because I want it to be very diverse. I don’t want it to be just live, because if there’s just one aspect of it being heard, then people just get tired. So it’s going to be a live, a few in-house beats, some drumming and probably one a capella.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Daniel Bayer at