Acclaimed Poet, Author Jamaal May Polishes Pearls of Wisdom

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Poetry is a balm capable of cleansing and soothing the soul even during the most turbulent times. For many it is like food, water and shelter – absolutely necessary for survival.

Award-winning I Love to Read poet and author Jamaal May, a native of Detroit, knows all too well the paramount power of poetry. May, who penned Hum (Alice James Books, 2013) and The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016), read from his critically acclaimed works during a Dallas City of Learning Turn Up! event Thursday, Aug. 4 at Highland Hills Library. May’s appearance was made possible with the support and assistance of Big Thought partner Project Still I Rise.

He spoke to an attentive audience of 60, including impressionable adolescents eager to soak up knowledge from a published scribe. His appearance, his willingness to share went a long way in closing the opportunity gap that disproportionately affects low-income youth.

During his presentation, which was followed by a meet-and-greet with autographs and photos, May offered his nuggets of wisdom. He was inspiring and pragmatic, earthy and eloquent. He answered questions from the crowd as well as from James Adams, Big Thought’s Manager of Programs.

We have shining examples of May’s pearls from his head and heart. We’ll call them Jamaalisms.

• “You have to tell your own story, or someone else is going to tell it for you.”

• “If you can’t write it down, it didn’t happen.”

• “Writing for me is like meditation.”

• “The physical act of writing it down is like a catharsis.”

• “I want to reflect, I don’t want to just respond.”

• “The conversation about writers of color has happened so fast, that it has changed so much in the last five years.”

• “You have your times of struggles, and you have your chill time. Always make sure you take that chill time.”

• “Always be present where you are in regards to your goals.”

• “My first slam poems were actually hip-hop songs.”

• “Rap for me is a category that falls under poetry.”

• “Hip-hop is spoken word and music.”

Big Thought sends sincere thanks to Jamaal May, Project Still I Rise, Highland Hills Library and Dallas Public Library for their collaborative support. We also extend gratitude to our many Dallas City of Learning donors. For a complete list of DCoL donors, please visit