GOSPEL POET, RAPPER REDEFINES THE GENRE
Gunn puts a beat to her spiritual, unique message
When Iona Gunn describes what exactly it is exactly she does when she steps up to a microphone to recite her poetry while music plays in the background, she typically, says “it’s poetry with an attitude.”
But in many other circles, Gunn’s artistry is described as Christian rap. However, the word can still conjure up negative images among some people, particularly for those from an older generation.
The 49-year-old poet, wife and mother of three can understand some elders reluctance to embrace the hip hop genre.
“At first, I didn’t like it either because I couldn’t understand what people were saying, so [rap] was closed off to me,” she recalled. “So my brother began coach me and he said, ‘rap ain’t nothing but with poetry with an attitude.”
The Hell That I Live With
The hell that I live with it has a name I keep it to myself because of the shame
The trials are hid by the smile on my face trying to make the pain go away
The hell that I live with others do not know they see me as I come and as I go
The hell that I live with it’s a reflection of the mistakes that I made along the way
The hell that I live with makes me want to through up my hands and quit
The hell that I live with leaves me wondering “Is it worth it?”
The hell that I live with I’ll accept it for now because one day when Jesus comes I’ll wear a crown. —Iona Gunn
Slowly she came to appreciate the genre more. Yet it was not until last year at the request of her nephew that Gunn recited her own poetry to a beat.
“I just tried it,” she said. Her nephew and his friends loved it. So, she began reciting her “poems with an attitude” at different venues including a youth congress hosted by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Orlandao last year.
“They just went crazy and someone compared me to Nicki Minaj,” she said with a laugh. “ I did not know what that was suppose to mean, but to the youth it meant something great. So I realized that they really liked it.”
And although Gunn has loved to write for several decades she makes sure to acknowledge that her creativity was a gift from a higher power.
“I don’t sit down and make up anything,” she explained, “the poems come when the Holy Spirit feels like filling my mouth or my mind with the words.”
Gunn has found that pattern to hold true ever since she first began writing poetry in the early 1990s. One of her first, and now one of her most popular poems, reflects upon the life and impact of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But beyond famous figures, her poems cover a vast array of topics including faith, abuse, relationships and in particular drugs.
“I want to reach those in the community that are struggling with drugs to let them know that they don’t [drugs], they have can have a better life without it,” said Gunn, who used drugs herself as a teen.
To help her poetry reach a broader audience, Gunn has begun to perform at more venues, posting on YouTube, while also selling copies of her poetry and her own poetry CD, “The Hell That I Live With.”
For more information, contact Gunn at ioniaGunn@yahoo.com.