At the crossroads of truth, peace and love is Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson, a self-taught multidisciplinary visual artist and spoken word poet from Southeast Grand Rapids. Thompson has been named the Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, succeeding Marcel “Fable the Poet” Price, for a three-year term beginning in January 2021.
Thompson’s love of poetry came at a young age, when she used writing as a way to create the life she wanted.
“My family was very busy, there was a lot of moving around. I kind of became white noise in the background,” Thompson said. “I got to recreate my life through this art form. It became my best friend. I was reading anything I could get my hands on, from dictionaries to phone books.
“The art of poetry became a friendship between me and words, and the life that I wished I had.”
Thompson became active in the Grand Rapids poetry scene five years ago. In 2016, she was asked to perform at the Pantone Color of the Year opening at the UICA. She spoke an intention before she performed, using her words as a method to design her destiny, just as she did as a child.
“I was just there with my voice, and I said to myself, ‘I would love to be more than just an accent to an event. I need my art to be standing. I don’t want the poems to be the end of me,’” Thompson said.
Several months later, Thompson received a call from the UICA asking her to participate in the 2017 ArtPrize competition. The event took her intention full circle when her piece, broke(n)hunger, made it into the public vote’s top five pieces for time-based art.
“A year later, in the same space that I performed, I had my art there, standing,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s mindfulness and manifestation also paved her way into the Poet Laureate position — a title she dreamt of having for years. However, Thompson’s road to the role had moments of self-doubt.
“I don’t have a degree. I went to college and I dropped out,” Thompson said. “When I’m thinking about being a self-taught artist, and someone who’s literally just expressing from the heart and from the spirit, sometimes I feel inadequate.
“I may not have that classroom experience, but I have life experience, I have heart and I have passion.”
Out of Thompson’s spirit and truth comes authentic leadership, and she has committed to using her platform to help individual creative spirits blossom all over Grand Rapids. “As a poet laureate of Grand Rapids, my intention is to build community, and while building community get people comfortable with self-expression.”
Creative truth begins with just that — the truth — and Thompson wants to teach people how to confront their feelings with honesty so they can express empathy with others.
“I always say there’s this ring of change, and it starts with the heart,” she said. “When you can see yourself clearly, you can look in your house and start seeing your other family members more clearly. If you don’t acknowledge your own feelings, when you go in the world and you hear people exclaiming ‘Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter,’ you can’t even acknowledge how they may be feeling because you haven’t tapped into yourself.
“You haven’t gotten to the heart of you.”
Thompson will serve as the appointed leader of the Grand Rapids poetry community for the next three years, and she realizes the local scene is what gave her the confidence to share her art in the first place.
“I’ve traveled and gone to poetry communities all over the country, and I haven’t found a place that feels like this, where people are here to support, here to push forward new voices,” she said. “It definitely was the thing that made me feel like all of this could be possible. If I’d been in a community where it was really competitive and nobody really cared about each other, I maybe wouldn’t be sitting in this poet laureate position.”
From the little girl who read dictionaries to the woman who manifested her position as a poet laureate, Thompson’s own artistic journey is just one brilliant example of the creative potential she hopes to unlock in others around her home.
“Grand Rapids is a beautiful place to find ways to express yourself because people are always going to pull you in with love. I know I will, for sure. That’s the community that I want to be a part of. It all starts with us.”