Two years ago, poet James Alexander Bryant asked himself a defining question.
"Where do I see myself in five, 10 years from now?" pondered the Camden poet, whose pen name is James Alexander. "I think I can do a little bit more [with my life]. I can really give back to society on a larger scale."
Alexander's gift to the world came in the form of two encouraging books of poetry he penned. His first book, "If Words Could Talk What Would They Say?" was published in the winter. His second book, "H.A.T.E. – Honest And Truthful Experiences," was just released last week. Both books are available in paperback and for Kindle at Amazon.com.
"H.A.T.E." spotlights more than two dozen poems, where Alexander comments on everything from his encounter with the child support system ("Free At Last") and America's first black president ("44th President") to whether each of us are living out the purpose we were created for ("His Story").
Alexander, 44, says his books are tools to encourage people to invest in their passion like he did.
"You probably work with people who hate their job," Alexander said. "They come in and complain every day. And I'm like: 'If the hate you have for your job is that deep-rooted, what are you going to do to make some changes?' When people get in touch with that, I think they'll start to make changes. That's really the idea behind the book as well. If hate is bringing you down that much, open your eyes or imagine doing something you love."
Having worked as both a correctional and probation officer in Philadelphia, Alexander knows what it's like to spend a lot of time around criminals.
"A lot of them would say things like, 'If it wasn't for us, you guys wouldn't be employed,'" he said. "I was like, 'Okay, do me a favor. Send me to the unemployment line.'"
But only a few took Alexander up on his offer, which inspired his poem "Crime Pays." It's a self-explanatory piece with a clever twist.
"My spin on 'Crime Pays' is, 'yes, it does pay," Alexander said. "But it's not in the manner that you think it does. It pays lawyers, correction officers and police officers."
Driven by purpose
Page 2 of 2 - If you twisted his arm and asked him to choose his favorite poem from "H.A.T.E.," Alexander would pick "His Story," the final piece in the book. The theme behind the piece was the driving force behind him publishing his first two books of poetry this year.
"['His Story'] talks about us as individuals having a God-given purpose here on earth," he said. "And the question at the end of the day is, 'Are we living out his story? Are we living out God's story for us?'"
Alexander has been a poet for years, but he didn't start taking it seriously until 2011. That's when he felt God encouraging him to get serious with writing. So he started penning and eventually "realized this is a God-given gift and I can do something with it."
This year his first two books were published. While working on the books, Alexander quit working in corrections to follow another passion: working as a graphic designer. This spring he finished his final class and will earn his bachelor's in graphic design from Wilmington University in the winter of 2014.
He's currently working as a freelancer.
Since God grabbed his attention a few years ago, Alexander has been happier with his life. And he says he's been touching people with his poems, especially when he's performing in Wilmington and Philadelphia.
"People [have been] coming up to me saying, 'Wow, I wish my son was here,'" he said. "Or, 'I appreciate what you're doing. Keep doing it.'"