the louderARTS Project

Tonya Maria Matthews

Tonya Maria has been writing poetry since childhood. While in high school and college, she added singing, acting and other forms of creative writing to her repertoire. In 1996, she began refocusing her energies on poetry writing and incorporated her new talents in stage and song. With These Hips on the tip of her tongue and a microphone in her hand, she debuted on the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. Metropolitan open-mic poetry and slam circuit as JaHipster in the spring of 1997. By the winter of 1997 she was on tour with a performance poetry troupe, Da Minista JaHipster and The SongBird. In 1998 she won her first slam and went on to become the BlackWords Grand Slam Champion in 1999 and a member of the Washington, D.C. National Slam Team in 2000.

To see Tonya Maria on stage is to know that she was born for it. As diva spoken word artist JaHipster, she maintains a level of poetic and performance integrity that has not been seen for some time. Tonya Maria continues to do spoken word workshops and performances across the country. She has featured alongside Sonia Sanchez and Haki R. Madhubuti on the Jazz Poetry Kafe CD. She has also appeared on stage with Nikki Giovanni.

As her reputation as an extraordinary slam and spoken word artist grew, Tonya Maria was also establishing herself in literary circles. She joined with BlackWords Publishing for her first chapbook, These Hips, in 1999. She read and discussed her poetry for organizations all over the country, including the Austin Writer's League, the Maryland Center for the Book and various college and university centers. Her third collection of poetry, Still Swinging, published in October 2001, is her first paperback edition and has released to critical acclaim and review. Tonya Maria 's work has appeared in various media and collections including, an anthology of the International Library of Poetry and on Horizonmag.com. In the fall of 2001, she was asked to read from her latest works at the Library of Congress for their annual poetry series.

Tonya Maria Matthews is JaHipster, the re-evolution of the literary in spoken word. She is bringing a voice and style to us that are unrivalled. She has come to claim her place as "Poetess of the People," retracing and re-inventing the paths lay by the greatest poets of generations past and she will speak to and for generations present and future.

jahipster@hotmail.com
jahipster.com




These Hips

These Hips
These hips are wide as hell.
Curving and growing and bursting
With the tales they tell.
Wide enough to balance heavy chests and square shoulders
     into characteristically plump hourglass figures;
Wide enough to stop crap games on shady ghetto corners;
Wide enough to birth fat black baby boys.

These hips are wide as hell.
Heaving and stretching and yearning
Masses of cocoa-tinted, mocha-touched, caramel-licked flesh
Working far into the midnight hour.
Wide enough -- ooh baby! baby! -- to accentuate curvaceous backsides
     that beget outlandish hip-hop hits;
Wide enough to cradle you, baby love, after hours on a job
     that     chastises your skin, devalues your mind     and scars your soul;
Wide enough for hours of painstaking, labor-of-love cornrows for you, baby girl.

These hips are wide as hell.
Leaning and locking and swiveling
Helping my mouth articulate what words simply cannot handle.
Wide enough to manipulate my walk into a graceful or attitudinal
     --but always incomparable--
     Sway that defines who I am
     Today.
Wide enough to remind you of the error of your ways, black man.
     Remind you that you like a woman you can hold onto;
Wide enough to cradle you, grandbaby, when your momma cries on my shoulder
     because this time daddy is gone for good.

These hips, these hips.
They are for me.
They are for me.
They are for me.
They are for you.
They are for you.
They are for you.
They are for definition, for comfort
For sex appeal, for motherhood
For play, for work
For weekends, for everyday
For tight dresses, for A-line skirts
For politics, for protest
For war, for worship
For me
For you
For real.
These hips, yes, my hips
Are wide as hell.

© Tonya Maria Matthews



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