Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
District officer shows his depth with poetry book
Takoma Park resident releases self-published book that reflects on his life and his hardships
by Kristi Tousignant | The Gazette
Christopher Anderson/The Gazette
Takoma Park resident Dwayne Redmond recently published "A Revelation," a book containing 85 poems about his life.
For Takoma Park resident and Washington, D.C., police officer Dwayne Redmond, inspiration can strike anywhere, even while sitting in his cop car.
Redmond self-published his first book of poetry in September. The book, "A Revelation," features 85 poems about his life, which stretches from his childhood in Greenwood, Miss., to his time as a soldier and his current job as a police officer.
"It's a different kind of book," Redmond said. "It's more than just spiritual and inspirational. It really hits home on some topics."
Redmond paid several thousand dollars to publish the book and the books are printed on-demand by the publisher, RoseDog Books.
The poems are about growing up without a father, being bullied at school, serving in the army and even being homeless. Redmond was raised by his mother in Mississippi with two sisters and two brothers. His father left the family while Redmond was young.
Some of the poems in the book were written as early as the late 1980s, said Redmond, who first became interested in poetry when he was in grade school. Redmond, who said he is "in his mid-40s,'' remembered writing a poem for a third-grade assignment, and his teacher was so impressed that she didn't believe Redmond wrote it, instead thinking that one of his older siblings had helped him.
Redmond joined the army in 1980 and served for six years, where he lived in Korea, Germany and around the United States. Shortly after he got out of the army in 1988, Redmond was homeless for a few weeks, and was forced to live in abandoned buildings.
"It was a learning experience," Redmond said. "I didn't know anything about shelters where you could go and live."
He eventually found a job moving furniture through a temporary agency and made enough money to rent a room in a house. He used his savings from the army, which he had originally intended to spend on college, to buy a car.
He moved to Takoma Park in 1990, because he always thought the area was well-maintained by the city. It has been his home ever since. He is unmarried with two kids.
He has worked as a police officer in Washington, D.C., for more than three years. Redmond hosted a public cable television show for kids in Takoma Park called "Poetry in Motion," for one year. He had a friend who worked for the cable network and had his own show. Redmond started helping him at the station and soon got his own show in 1994. He read poetry, talked about black history and warned kids about drugs.
Redmond first caught the publishing bug when his first poem was printed in 1994. One of his sisters lives in St. Louis, Mo., and told him about a poetry contest there. He entered and won. His winning poem, called "May," was published in a poetry book with a collection of different authors. The poem is about being homeless and gives thanks for things like the ocean and clouds that many take for granted, Redmond said.
Determined to publish more, Redmond set a goal to publish a poetry book by 2010. He began writing all the time, during breaks and even in his police car at work. He would write on a pad of paper then type the words onto a computer.
Phil Shapiro, who works at the Takoma Park Maryland Library computer center where Redmond often writes, has known Redmond for four years. Shapiro said Redmond always looked very serious and focused while writing.
"It's interesting for me to look at the world through his eyes, through his poetry," Shapiro said.
Shapiro owns Redmond's book and said he thinks the poems are perceptive, with sensitive and playful language. Shapiro read over some of the poems and helped Redmond type a few during the editing process. Shapiro said that Redmond's poetry reminds him of the poet Langston Hughes' writing.
"They bring to mind just a deep understanding of the human condition," Shapiro said.
Redmond first contacted RoseDog Books, a publisher based in Pittsburgh, Penn., two years ago. He decided he needed more time to write enough poems to fill a book, though.
"I have to actually be inspired to write about something," Redmond said. "It wasn't procrastination. I was just inspired to write different things."
Anything and everything inspires Redmond. He said his biggest role models were not poets or authors, but songwriters like Marvin Gaye. He said he sometimes cannot find the right words and will write a poem over a couple days. Other times, he can churn out a poem in 20 minutes when he is really moved, like when music legend Michael Jackson died.
"When something like that occurs, it's almost like it's not me writing," Redmond said.
Redmond said he will continue to write poetry and plans to publish a second book within two years. His next book, he said, will be more upbeat and will concentrate on his experiences as a police officer.