Cynthia Rose discovered her first book of poetry at a yard sale with her late mother. She purchased a tattered copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, and started writing her own poetry around age 11.
Rose had already been journaling from a very young age, thanks to a gift from her maternal grandmother. In just three months, she filled her pocket-sized, padlocked diary with observations, rhymes, and images.
Poetry has always been Rose’s refuge, no matter where her life has taken her. Her newest poems are featured alongside photography and poetry by Stanley Johnson and Katie Clark in the “Focused Moments” exhibit at LeMoyne Arts now through Aug. 6.
“I lost my biological parents at a young age and writing gave me a way to share my feelings without fear of judgment or ridicule,” says Rose. “It was a safe space. Poetry gave me a way to express and write in code, so to speak, so everything wasn’t out there like open-heart surgery on the page. I could write about my feelings whether they were happy or sad.”
Rose always felt a natural affinity for the arts. As a teenager, she loved to scrapbook. Rose would cut out pictures of her favorite music artists and handwrite lyrics to their songs to create her own magazine pages. As a student at Southern A&M University in Louisiana, she began submitting letters to the editor, cartoons, and poems to the school newspaper.
Although she was majoring in graphic design and theater at the time, Rose’s African American literature professor urged her to join the paper as a staff writer. She eventually switched degrees and earned a bachelor’s in print journalism, serving as editor of the “Southern Digest” student newspaper. Rose continued writing for “The Advocate” daily newspaper before embarking on a 20-year public relations career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“My poems usually come to me, and I never know when I’m going to receive a download,” laughs Rose. “I would have these long drives and these poems would come to me, so I might pull over to the side of the road and scribble it in a notebook. Now I can just speak it into my phone.”
Rose received several awards during her career, including recognition for increasing outreach to socially disadvantaged farmers in the southeast as well as advocating for 1890 land-grant university scholarships and capacity building funds.
She published her first book, “Bloom Forever” after retiring from federal service. Rose had joined the Tallahassee Authors Network (TAN), and with the support of her fellow writers, was motivated to publish. She gathered two decades worth of poetry written and typed in notebooks, journals, and post-it notes to create a scrapbook of her work.
“I didn’t want to take away from who I was when I wrote a poem, so I decided to treat them as a snapshot of who I was and what I was experiencing at that time,” says Rose.
“There are errors, and you can see the evolution of technology in my poetry or how my handwriting has changed throughout the years. By presenting these as a journal, people can see how old I was, from about 18 in the first poem in the book, all the way to my mid-40s. They can follow me on this life journey.”
In 2020, Rose authored her second book, “Journey’s Light – The Journey Is Light” in collaboration with photographer, Johnson. The original idea for the book came to Rose while she was on tour promoting “Bloom Forever.”
During her time with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rose had taken photographs of rural scenes and nature, and began making bedazzled greeting cards featuring her photography and words to sell alongside the books.
Rose decided she wanted to author a book that would feature both photography and poetry but wasn’t able to find time to sit and write. Rose had been acting in local plays and musicals as well as helping her friends with their various art projects when the world ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, there was plenty of time to bring “Journey’s Light – The Journey Is Light” to life.
“This is a really crazy time that we’re in, and people need beauty and hope more than ever now,” says Rose, who enjoyed piecing together the book with Johnson. “It was only natural we would work together and had a process of pairing up photos with poems and affirmations. It was so fun.”
Rose says that the “Focused Moments” exhibit at LeMoyne Arts was yet another way to provide peace and tranquility to others through poetry and photography.
Rose frequently hosts “Write to Heal” sessions that share how to use poetry, journaling and writing as tools for self-reflection.
Working with Clark and Johnson, the exhibit showcases each artists’ definition of beauty through their respective mediums. The exhibit also reaffirms Rose’s beliefs in the healing properties of creative expression.
“We include photos of nature, water, sunrises, people and unexpected twists on what we think is beautiful,” says Rose.
“I would love for people to know that beauty is all around us. Sometimes we don’t see it because we’re so busy living our lives, but you can hear it, see it, and feel it. It all comes from taking a moment to be present and that requires being still sometimes.”
Learn more about the Focused Moments exhibition.
Read this article on the Tallahassee Democrat website.