by Ada Cheng
After more than a year of hideout and hiatus, Dianna Tyler, aka Goddess Warrior The Poet, came out strong with her first spoken-word album More Than a Woman, which is due to be released Saturday, Sept. 22. A showcase, hosted by Chicago award-winning poet Ollie Woods, aka “HoodRaised,” and featuring guest performers in music, comedy, and spoken word, will be taking place at 11852 S. Michigan at 7pm that evening.
This album signifies birth in many ways: the giving of life to her twins, to her new identity as a mother, and to her new work. New, not only in terms of the topics explored, but also in terms of forms and styles in spoken word.
Goddess Warrior The Poet conceptualized the album, wrote these new poems, and recorded them all during her pregnancy and soon after giving birth to her twin boys in December 2017.
More Than A Woman is about her experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, which have become the major impetus for her creativity this past year. For Tyler, this album is about her “transition into motherhood, into womanhood, and initiation into fully becoming and being a goddess.”
Yet the pregnancy itself wasn’t easy in the beginning. Tyler had to wrestle with her sense of shame and confront the stigma and taboo that might have come with getting and being pregnant as a stud in the Black lesbian community. She didn’t know how to break the news to the spoken word community, friends, or her own family. Soon after learning the news of her pregnancy, she deactivated her social media accounts and completely banished herself from the scene. It took her some months to reveal her pregnancy to her family and close friends.
This album, the creation, the recording, and the performance, is about naming that deep shame and confronting the stigma and taboo unapologetically. Hopefully by speaking of the shame and taboo, Tyler can de-stigmatize it, for herself and for others.
This was not the first time Tyler spoke of shame and taboo. She started out her performance career sharing poetry at At Ease Sundays Open Mic in 2012. The first piece she wrote and performed was about domestic violence in her own family, about her father murdering her mother and then killing himself just three years prior.
Before sharing this family story in public, she felt she was simply surviving the trauma and coping with its aftermath. Once she started “giving testimony” about her experiences as a child affected by domestic violence, that was when the healing of her soul began.
At first, her work centered on domestic violence, gun violence and urgent issues affecting her community. Performance enabled her to heal from losing her parents under tragic circumstances, “I dealt with it head-on,” she said. “Accepting that it happened. Accepting that they are no longer here physically. For a long time, I was in denial about it. I couldn’t talk about it. It took me a long time to accept it, write about it, perform it, and cry about it. The healing came after that.”
She came up with her stage name, “warrior,” to call attention to the strength it took for her to overcome those traumatic experiences. And the process of healing, through which she gained critical perspectives into her trauma, enabled her to become a better artist and to produce better art.
Tyler reflected upon her own evolution as an artist, telling Windy City Times, “My art evolved as I evolved as an artist. As I began to grow, I look at it more than just a hobby. It became something I knew I could do for the rest of my life. I found my voice as an artist. I found my stage name. It gave me the courage to tell more stories, to tell the world who I was, about my parents and my entire lifestyle.”
This album is not only her return from pregnancy/childbirth and from grappling with shame but also a tribute to her mother, who was her constant inspiration before her murder. And now being a mother herself, Tyler is drawing lessons from her mother to shape her own style of mothering. “Watching my mom be a mom and the way she was a mother to me taught me how to be a mom to my children now. If I hadn’t gotten 23 years of examples from her, I wouldn’t know how right now.”
The album is Tyler’s gift to her mother and to her memory.
Motherhood allows Tyler to see the construction of manhood and the culture of toxic masculinity differently as well. Raising her sons has helped her become more compassionate as a human being and ask more thoughtful questions as an artist. For Tyler, men like her father are once innocent children like her own sons. The question is: What has changed them in their path from boyhood to manhood?
For Tyler, her task as an artist is to continuously evolve, personally, artistically, and intellectually. She recognizes that the spoken word community or any art scene for that matter is constantly changing, so she needs to be on top of her artistry and performance. She can’t stay comfortable or complacent. She needs to keep moving forward.
Goddess Warrior The Poet is returning with a new sense of urgency and humility. More Than A Woman is as much about her rebirth and reinvention as an artist as about the birth of her twins. With this new album, she looks to broaden her art, audience base and artistic influence.