Ursula Rucker sings poetry

By Falice Chin

Many have heard that poetry is painting with the gift of speech. The special type of communication that is exclusive to poetry is that words can move in and out of the poet and reader’s inner emotions. Ursula Rucker is one of the biggest names in the music industry who records her poetry over multiple genres of music. Her voice is sultry, always carrying a hint of poignant sentiment, though her lyrics are hardly ever about self-centred depression.

“One thing I want people to understand is that I am not a sad poet,” says Rucker. “It is something that is going on in the brand name of ‘spoken word.’”

Rucker’s voice has captivated many, earning fame in an area of music that most people aren’t familiar with. Her debut album, Soul Sista, consists of songs that speak the heart of womanhood, the darkness of slavery, and many tales through a narrative voice. Her poetry is full of raw emotions, feisty outcries, and sometimes haunting words. Needless to say, her music is a powerful form of art.

“For me, poetry is a means of surviva,” Rucker explains. “Without it, I’d lose the bit of sanity I have. It is a way to describe myself as a woman.

“It means the world to me, even if nobody knew my name. It has nothing to do with showing off on the mic, or that I can communicate with people on a grand-scale. Even if there is none of that, it is still a thrill.”

The nature of Rucker’s music often leads people to think that she is some sort of messenger; another stereotype frequently associated with the title of “spoken word” artists.

“People always call me a messenger. I realise this, and I accept it. But I’m not just about one general message,” says Rucker. “If I have to choose one, it would be for people to be more human toward each other. Being more human and not so technical.”

Rucker’s honest poetic flow is influencing people to bring out their black books and start scribbling. Influence is a strange thing, as a single influence can change the life perspective of a person. Rucker talks about her biggest influence and favourite writer Zora Neale Hurston, and how the most powerful is also the most honest.

“Zora Neale Hurston always wrote in the lanaguage of her town, even though black intellectualism was very much in fashion. Black writers and artists were really trying to prove themselves, and Zora Neale Hurston really had the nerve to not get caught up in that and still be herself. I’m so happy that she did, because when I read her work, it’s so inspiring for me.”

Outside of music, Rucker is a mother of three children, the youngest being just six months old. Her life is a constant battle or search for balance between her musical career and family.

“I am a mother and a wife, and I try to at least get that right. I’m striving to be a good mother, and that can be a little crazy sometimes. People have done much more though, so it’s not that I want pity. Sometimes I have to leave the family to do something, and it can get a little hairy, but you gotta do it.”

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