Cathy Spaulding: Okie from Muskogee: Rowland shares thoughts through poetry

·7 min read

Aug. 7—Doyle Rowland Jr. has a way with words, whether written, spoken or online.

He said he always has been more of a writer than a reader, something his elementary school teachers noticed — and encouraged.

"After recess you're supposed to come in and you're supposed to read. But my teachers would let me write instead of read because I always loved to write. I would write stories and all kinds of stuff."

Rowland said he wanted to write comics back when he was in high school.

Poetry is his passion, however, where he goes by the name Byrd the Overcomer. He has written several poetry books. He also has shared his spoken word poems with several poetry groups, including Muskogee Soul Searchers. He shares his poetry and others' poetry through his Facebook hashtag #poetrydroptuesday.

Rowland also has a passion for keeping healthy. He said he was born prematurely at only three pounds.

"They gave me three days to live," he said, adding that he always has had asthma.

He said he began lifting weights in the basement of the YMCA and now works out at Strictly Fitness. He also watches a lot of body building and professional wrestling.

His Byrd the Overcomer T-shirt reflects that interest, depicting him with a professional wrestling belt. He has a professional wrestling belt with POET inscribed in front.

Rowland also enjoys cooking, especially chicken and brisket.

"I'm horrible at frying, so I bake everything," he said. "My Birdman chicken, that's what my kids love. It's usually just chicken drums, no breast, and seasoned on both sides. You have to let it cook about an hourish. The brisket is low and slow. I season it up real good with my secret marinade and let it cook overnight, and the smell usually wakes me up. "

Using poetry to

find Overcomer

Doyle Rowland Jr. became Byrd the Overcomer about five years ago.

"I was at a New Year's Eve revival and the pastor said it was the year of the overcomer," Rowland said. "And Byrd has always been my nickname. They nicknamed me that when I was in the incubator. They said I was so small, I looked like a hummingbird. Byrd the Overcomer came later, when I decided to revamp my poetry and actually do it seriously."

Rowland said he becomes a "totally different person" as Byrd.

"I aim to get people's attention. I try to excite them about being themselves," he said. "You don't have to hate your life, because everybody's been there. Byrd the Overcomer is proof there is life on the other side of that silver lining. You can do whatever you put your mind to. It just takes time."

He said he seeks to hit every emotion with his poetry.

"I never write about a certain subject. I always try to write the whole gambit of emotions," he said. "I don't even put a title on my poem until after I've written it. If I put a title at the top of the page, nothing comes out."

Sharing with

other poets

Rowland expands his craft through spoken word poetry.

"When you become a spoken word artist, I believe you have to up the entertainment value a little bit, like being able to memorize the poem, being able to project your poem and bring the audience in and feel what you're talking about," he said.

Rowland said he used to recite his poems from the paper when he started. Then he got with the Oklahoma City group, Poetic City.

He said the group taught him the presentation value of poetry "and to be able to put an exclamation point on the words that you've already written."

Rowland said his group, Muskogee Soul Searchers, enabled Byrd the Overcomer to blossom.

"I began to feel more comfortable because I was around people who understood what I was trying to say," he said, adding that being around like-minded people helped him grow as a poet.

"It's still a very motivational and inspirational group of people," he said. "I still talk to them daily, weekly, and they are really great at what they do and they really love our community."

Creating his

presence online

Rowland now reaches others online through #poetrydroptuesday.

"When I started it, all it was supposed to be was practice," he said. "Practice pieces in front of a camera, in front of a microphone, in front of other people, so that when your time came, you'd be able to perform it better."

He recalled being discouraged when he began four years ago.

"There was no support, no real niche for it back then," he said. "I was told back then, 'you'd never make a dime off poetry.' I never let those thoughts set in because I knew how good at it I was, and I loved it. And I knew how other people loved when I did it."

He said he sought to be consistent by posting a poem every Tuesday.

"I'll set my phone up, and if I'm reading it, I'll actually have another phone in my FB messenger, and I'll try to keep that other phone out of sight," he said. "I'm just trying to project to the camera."

Rowland said response over the past four years has been phenomenal.

"There's poets from all over the world that chime in and post their poems on #poetrydroptuesday," he said. "And I try to share every one of them."

Q and A

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?

"Parents moved all of us here when I was around 5. The community and the place kind of grew on me. It just always felt like I considered this home. Every life lesson I ever learned, I learned most right here in Muskogee. It's always going to be home base."

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

"The overall people. I can go anywhere in Muskogee and strike up a conversation with somebody, talk like I've known them all my life. That kind of down-home hospitality is hard to find in other places."

WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

"More opportunities for the youth. Give them something to do. A lot of people have to go elsewhere to find entertainment or to find education or even occupations. Muskogee can do more in trying to keep the youth here because the youth are our future."

WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?

"My parents, Doyle and Carsetta Rowland. They've always influenced me. A poet named Lansing Lee. He was a big inspiration for me. He was the first one to recognize I had talent in poetry. I owe a lot of my accolades to him. He really inspired me."

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?

"I was in fifth grade at Sadler. Me and my friends were doing something, the teacher came and for 'punishment' she made us all write a poem about Martin Luther King. I took it seriously. It was the first poem I ever wrote. They liked it so much, they included me in the Black History program. The second one was when I put on my event for the first time, Poet Wars. It was the same year we had all those floods. I didn't even know I could even put the show on. We did have it. Everything went off without a hitch."

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

"Movies. I've always been a movie buff. I like uplifting stuff. I like comedies.... or documentaries."

HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

"Great town to raise children and a family."

MEET Doyle Rowland Jr.

AGE: 44.

HOMETOWN: Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

EDUCATION: Cherokee Elementary, Sadler Elementary, West Junior High, Muskogee High School class of 1996. Connors State College.

PROFESSION: Logistics at Georgia-Pacific.

FAMILY: Wife, Crystal. "Between us, we have six kids." Four grandchildren.

CHURCH: Deacon at Divine Love Christian Fellowship.

HOBBIES: Weightlifting, writing, spoken word, music, cooking.