If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Terry J., it’s that he’s eager to share his findings of the world with others in any way he can. “There’s just so much that I have to tell, I don’t even know where to begin.” Terry’s a free-flow writer. We’ve published several of his poems in The Contributor (check recent issues for “Secret Window,” “Pure Heart”), he’s working to put together a book of his poetry and songs, and he’s always looking for places in print and online where he can share his work.
How long have you been selling The Contributor?
I’ve been going right at six months.
Are you from Nashville?
I was born in Memphis, Tenn., and I’ve been all over the United States — as a four-time successful business owner, entrepreneur since the time I was 9 years old.
I set out on the road when I was very young, as a singer, songwriter, and a poet, and I’m on this mission here in Nashville to get published in the magazines. I have several songs that I’m trying to get music put behind actually, so I can be introduced into the music industry, too.
I just had [a poem] called “Secret Window” that was published here in The Contributor, and this week, I had one called “Pure Heart,” and that kind of defines my life—where I’ve been, who I am, and just my everyday living. My surroundings, my emotions, my feelings that seem to come out on paper.
Is there anything you tend to focus on writing about?
No, I can’t do that because it all comes natural, and that free flow is just like — the grace of God is just working right through me.
Tell me about your faith journey.
I find my life as being a highway man. I went back and forth — I know all the interstates, I know all the highways — it just seemed like the good Lord’s directing me and just said, “Go, don’t worry about what you have, don’t worry about anything, I will provide.” And that’s what He’s been doing. And the longest I stayed was in Seattle, Wash. for six years with a corporation. And that’s where I became closest to God. After that, my divorce took place after 25 years, and I went to an enterprise, and that’s when the Good Lord has just been blessing me to continue doing what I must do — you know, His will. Through my writings, through my songs, which is eventually going to be my book. Once I get established to where I can start writing that.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
It started about five years ago, when my divorce took place. That’s when I started writing, when I started praying, and I’ve been praying for all the people worse, but I finally started taking some time for myself since I was by myself, and I lost my whole life. You know, I love her and I always will, but I lost everything and I gave her everything. I just started writing there, and my list is [this long]. It starts at the bottom with the simple things until I arrived here in Nashville and the very next one is “Light of Amazing Grace.” And I just turned in “The Garden of Eden,” but you know — every one of them is a continuation.
What do you think people in Nashville don’t understand about homelessness?
You know, there’s a lot of judgmental people out there that shouldn’t be judging anybody at all. It’s nobody’s decision except for God’s. And that’s why I just wrote another poem called “One Decision,” because I was actually judged too —said I was very irresponsible. I might be a little irresponsible. But if it wasn’t for that decision, my life wouldn’t be worth living to learn every day.
Nashville’s the best place I’ve been in in a long time. It’s my home state. There’s a lot of opportunity here. You’ve got your good and your bad, you know, there’s a lot of people judging the homeless people that shouldn’t be, but then there’s a lot of good, caring people here that are helping the homeless. And Megan Barry, I thank God for her, she’s a big supporter behind it. So she’s helping with the housing, and you know, people that’s living in the camps like Fort Negley. I was out of Fort Negley for four months, I think it was.
Are you in housing right now?
No, I’m not. I applied for Section 8. It’s been about six months now, so hopefully.
So you write songs. Do you sing?
I do. I do. Mostly [other people’s songs]. But I play harmonica, and everything I do is all by ear. It doesn’t matter what song it is or genre of the music — I live my life through music and for music, I’m definitely a music man. And I can karaoke quite well. A lot of people love my voice.
Do you ever sing in the karaoke places on Broadway?
No, I haven’t been down there just yet. You know, cause I’ve been ever-so-lonely, but not alone, I just don’t like going places by myself when I haven’t found that right person to share with and do it, but I want to so bad.
What are your hopes for the future?
My long-term goal is to finally get reestablished with my new life I’ve found here in Nashville, where I can start writing my book. And to feel normal and accepted as who I am — not by what I can do or what I have to offer or give, but who I am. And you know, to understand me. Like my poem “Pure Heart,” that pretty much describes me as a poet. There’s a mutual understanding — there has to be a mutual understanding between two people to hear each other out fully and not judge or misunderstand, but have questions if you don’t understand. Ask questions instead of taking it out and starting rumors and this and that, and that seems like what’s been happening my whole life through.