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Missouri basketball guard Kim English shows eloquent side using poetry

Monday, February 23, 2009 | 4:39 p.m. CST; updated 5:14 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009
MU guard Kim English, right, writes poetry and gave a reading Thursday night on campus.

"Infatuation fades with maturation
They say when love falls, it comes like precipitation"

COLUMBIA — As Kim English speaks these words into the microphone on stage in the dimly lit commons area, it doesn’t matter that he is a starter on a top-25 men's basketball team.

His voice rises and falls rhythmically as he looks out at his audience and gestures with his arms, occasionally glancing down at a small brown notebook for guidance. The emotions flow forth as he speaks passionately to more than 50 of his fellow students, sharing his ideas of love through the art of free-verse poetry.

Unlike one of his picture-perfect jump shots at Mizzou Arena, the freshman guard’s best lines in this intimate setting are met with an attentive, thoughtful silence.

The confidence Missouri coach Mike Anderson raves about appears on a different stage when English reads a poem he wrote extolling the beauty of black women, encouraging them to revel in their image. Vivid descriptions are accompanied by references to cultural icons like Maya Angelou, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, while a personal touch adds a dash of humor.

"If man could construct a perfect matriarch
She would draw men by the millions, but I would get her"

English’s two untitled poems opened up the Black Programming Committee’s Third Thursday activities gathering last Thursday at Bengal Lair in Memorial Union. The event was billed on the group’s Facebook page as “A Night of Love."

Last Fall, English watched his teammate, Zaire Taylor, read poetry during an open mic night put on by the BPC. Taylor, who’s been writing verses for several years, said English liked what he saw and decided to become a poet himself.

Since then, the two guards have been spending a lot of their free time together outside of the basketball gym writing poetry. Shanetha Washington, a senior chair of the BPC, said English contacted her via Facebook about the chance to read some of his work.

“It shows that he’s really down-to-earth,” said Chandler Stephens, an MU student and BPC member. “It shows personality.”

Stephens’ friends, Shannon Jones and Sable Taddesse, agreed that it was nice to see English defy the stereotype of athletes who lack intelligence and have little or no interest in academics.

When he wasn’t reading his poems, the Baltimore, Md., native sat with teammates Leo Lyons and Keith Ramsey against the wall to the left of the stage, where friends and fans visited with them periodically. Senior forward DeMarre Carroll joined the group about halfway through the evening and stayed to watch other poetry readings and a brief singing performance.

English’s poem about black women was one he had written two days before the event, and his poem on love was created with the help of Taylor as they were sitting in the library earlier in the year. Taylor wasn't able to attend Thursday night because he was taking a test.

“Kimmie just has the raw talent of a poet or lyricist,” Taylor said. “He’s gifted with his words.”

"And to my surprise, I expected an angel to come from the skies,
But no, she’s from the earth, but still perfect"


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