PATERSON, NJ - Lonnie Mickens is a dreamer. Born and raised in Paterson, Mickens grew up poor in the 1970s, yet there was so much love in his family he said, “I didn’t even know I was poor until I was older.”
Mickens, who is now a city school teacher, grew up rich in other ways, including inspiration. That helped him turn to poetry and he recently published his first collection of work, called, “Open to Love, Faith and Healing: A Humble Perspective/Introspective of a Paterson Poet.”
Many of Mickens poems are based on his perspective of what love is. “I think people would like to know there’s romance in the world despite all the hectic-ness,” he said. “I have aspect of poems that are romantic that capture that side that everybody would like to have.”
Mickens has always enjoyed writing and the inspiration for writing his poetry book came when he was sharing some poems with another Paterson writer, Dr. Lilsa Mins. He said, “She was like, ‘Oh wow, I really like what you’re writing. I would like you to write something for my book.’ I thought she was just being flattering.” But Mins ended up putting Mickens’s poetry in her book entitled, “You’re Worth More Than That.”
“That was a blessing,” he said.
Now that Mickens has broken the ice writing his first book, he has a few more in the works. “A second poetry stint, more on the adult romantic,” he said, “And a romance novel. I could do that!”
Mickens looks forward to promoting his new book with book signings and is in the process of getting that together. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy held him back a bit, but he is looking to the future with positivity.
Mickens graduated from Eastside High School under former principal Joe Clark and graduated from William Paterson University with a Bachelors degree in English. He later went on to achieve his certification and Masters degree in special education from New Jersey City University. Mickens has received several teacher recognition awards. He has been teaching special education in the Paterson Public School district for 17 years and is currently a high school teacher.
The youngest of five children, Mickens stresses how important family is to him. “Family is key,” he said.
What Mickens learned early on from his family is what he tries to instill in his students. “I believe that a warm, welcoming environment is key to what will make a student successful. I try to instill that ideology in my students. Being in an environment is one thing, but letting the environment overrun you is another.”