by Fred Keene
Nearly two and a half years ago, performance poet and entrepreneur Shelly Says So sat nervously in a packed house at the Art of Conversation hosted by E The Poet Emcee/Slangston Hughes, awaiting her turn to get on. A lot happened prior to her signing the list. Shelly is calculated. She is a businesswoman (a marketing executive at a firm representing the healthcare sector). How calculated? Before even thinking about signing her name on the open mic list, she knew she had to choose a stage name that would fit, a name that would stick. So she did her due diligence and researched (as anyone with a Master’s degree in marketing would), ensuring there were no copyright or trademark infringements on her chosen moniker. She also performed a web search, ensuring the name she would choose was (1) easy to type, spell and search; and (2) that no one was even close to using it. She reserved the domain name, and “Shelly Says So!” was born.
What’s in a name? Though she refuses to reveal her government name to this journalist (to protect the innocent and/or guilty depending on who you ask), she does admit that the name fits her to a tee (we’ll talk about tees later). She is outspoken, her style is bold, big, beautiful and sexy…just like she is. She carries her persona like a Mark Jacobs 1984 leather satchel. Refined, yet over the top; but you can’t stop looking at it because you know there has to be some really cool things inside. Her poetry is not shtick–if Shelly says it, she’s probably done it (or at least has come close). She pulls no punches in her delivery. She embraces her queen size figure for what it is, and discloses that she wouldn’t even think about becoming a model, though she has been asked. “I see models as being a certain size and height, and I’m okay with that.”
Seemingly out of the blue, Shelly has taken the regional poetry scene by storm. On any given night you can find her performing, hosting, featuring, writing, recording or traveling in the name of poetry. She’s in it waist deep. She has accumulated quite a resume in a relatively short period of time. She has recorded a debut CD produced by Ra Pyramid.
“…so you won’t see me with my head low, and you won’t catch me rocking extra baggy clothes, ‘cuz baby these curves… were made for show…” –Big Girl Manifesto.
She has launched a clothing line, “T&A by Shelly Says So”, which offers a collection of tee shirts, panties and accessories that inspire confidence for every body shape.
She is the co-host of Be Free Fridays with LOVE the poet, she won “Poet of The Year” at the 2013 Baltimore Crown Awards, and has gained droves of supporting fans and supporters throughout the spoken word community — all while maintaining a professional persona by day. Not many of her professional contemporaries even know about her poetic alter ego—and she plans to keep it that way. “Most would be shocked to hear me do what I do,” Shelly admits. She keeps the two worlds separate, and doesn’t plan to leave either one.
Shelly used to write poetry while in college. She would pen personal pieces that she would share at times with close friends or family members. Her foray into performance poetry began when she was asked to write and perform a piece for her mother’s 50th birthday…and she did…and it went over well, very well. Soon after, her aunt (of all people) signed Shelly up to perform at an erotic poetry show. Mind you, she had never written erotic poetry (and to this day, even with recurring performances at Ainsley Burrows’ The Sweet Spot traveling erotic poetry showcase, she doesn’t consider herself an erotic poet). Believe it or not, she didn’t know where to start. But Shelly dug into the recesses of her experiences, conjured verbal images of what she liked or at least was willing to try, and came up with a gem that blew the crowd away. Shelly got noticed. She was asked at what poetry venues did she perform, but the Randallstown native didn’t even know there was a poetry scene in Baltimore. She was told about the aforementioned Art of Conversation open mic series, and decided to check it out. She was amazed at the crafty names, the styles, the confidence, the poetry, but decided to just soak it in and be a passive participant. She knew she could do this poetry thing, but since the Art of Conversation was a monthly series (and the only poetry venue she was aware of at the time), she decided to wait until the following month to sign the list. My, how time flies.
“..So next time you see me, go on and turn your head, but don’t break your neck. I don’t need your sympathy, but I will demand respect.”