Pilgrimage in prose

July 26, 2010

Bradley graduate Daunte Henderson has been writing since he was 13, but only recently realized the impact his words could have on others.

That was after English professor and Illinois poet laureate Kevin Stein expressed an interest in Henderson’s work prior to his 2008 graduation.

“That was when I really started feeling like it could help other people out,” Henderson said. “I realized my writing could affect everyone.”

One result of that realization was a 92-page book of poetry entitled “Things I Learned While Walking,” which encompasses Henderson’s thoughts on life, relationships, society and faith. The book went on sale May 7 and is available through amazon.com.

“Things I Learned While Walking” is unique in that its pages are black and its text is white, a design created by Henderson’s best friend.

While studying public relations at Bradley, Henderson attended one of Stein’s lectures and started meeting Stein in his office to chat about literature, reading, writing and life. Stein was impressed with Henderson’s work and helped Henderson enroll in Stein’s creative writing poetry class.

“I encouraged him because I saw a real mix of intelligence and hipness and social consciousness,” Stein said. “Here’s a guy who understands the influence of spoken word poetry, hip-hop and the aspect of how that works in language. And you have a guy that’s smart. That’s a good mix.”

Stein also was impressed with Henderson’s ability to combine social awareness with words that resonate with young people.

“He has this desire for social justice but he frames it in hip language and language of the moment,” Stein said. “He’s thinking deeply in the process. I think the guy has real opportunity to develop a readership.”

The two discussed the lifelong aspects of writing as opposed to writing a book and ending the writing process there. For Stein, one-on-one interactions like that represent the reason he loves teaching at Bradley.

And for Henderson, the meetings gave him confidence. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m getting validation from a poet laureate,’” Henderson said.

Henderson said he dabbled in a variety of religions before realizing that Christianity held what he sought. The book chronicles his journey, including the struggles he faced along the way, to accepting Jesus Christ in his life.

“It’s a very philosophical book about life,” Henderson said. “As we walk through life, we go through things, and it helps explain our journey. This book is a subset of certain areas in my life that have helped me get to God.”

Henderson used online publisher CreateSpace to package the paperback book and is using word of mouth and Facebook to market it. The public relations major currently works in sales, but is hoping to become a motivational speaker and perhaps publish another book.

“I encourage anybody to write and publish a book,” Henderson said. “It was a lot of prayer and a lot of bended knees that got this book published. But I encourage anybody to do it.”